5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether, in view of the hardship which is caused throughout Australia by some of the provisions of the Defence Act relating to cadets, he can say when the Government intends to introduce an amending Bill to allow the sons of widows who are the sole support of their mothers exemption from drill?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of the question; I am not prepared to answer it at once. It raises a series of very important considerations, and will require to be looked into most carefully.
– Some time ago the honorable member for Maribyrnong asked me a question regarding the payment made to officers of the police force for services rendered during the recent election. The Chief Electoral Officer reports -
In connexion with the elections in 1910, the police acted as doorkeepers at the larger polling booths, and those who were engaged received 10s. each from the Divisional Returning Officers. In connexion with the referendums, 1911, the police authorities in Victoria objected to constables acting as doorkeepers, but agreed to those who were doing ordinary police duty at the booths receiving a meal allowance of 2s. 6d. each, which was paid through the Police Department. A similar arrangement was observed in connexion with the last elections. The payment of such meal allowance has to be made through police authorities, who have not yet submitted their account, but it is expected in the next few days.
– I wish to know whether the Government has decided to reimburse the Government of New South Wales all the expenditure incurred in the active quarantine in that State during the recent small-pox outbreak?
– I do not know what is being done.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In a newspaper, published in Melbourne, yesterday there is a letter signed by Mr. Hungerford, the general manager of the Western Electrical Company of Australia Limited. He makes the statement that I am reported to have said that the company deliberately swindled the Commonwealth out of £5,900, that action was taken, and that the whole amount was recovered by the Commonwealth. I say that that is absolutely true.
– The honorable member is entitled to read the extracts in connexion with a personal explanation.
– The company deliberately swindled the Commonwealth out of £5,900.
– Surely this is not a personal explanation.
– It is a personal explanation, because an attack has been made on me. The company kept the sum that I have mentioned in a suspense account for about five years before distributing it among its shareholders, its excuse being, when the facts were made known by its late accountant giving information to the Department, that it had not been called’ on to pay the money. The ex-Prime Minister knows that I asked him to call for a special report upon the matter from the Auditor-General, which was done. Mr. Hungerford says that eventually a claim was made, which the company found to its surprise that the departmental officers were unable to substantiate in any way from their records; but, although the company was under no obligation to assist the Department, it placed its books and records at the disposal of the officials, and after they had satisfied themselves as to the amount they considered to be due, the company paid it. Those statements are quite true, but the company knew that the Minister of Trade and Customs had the power to take its books if the company had not placed them at our disposal. The Commonwealth owes the company nothing, so far as that is concerned. I certainly intended to have the books taken from the company if they were not made available to the Department. Mr. Hungerford also says that if the conduct of the company had been as I asserted, I should have initiated a prosecution against it, and that the company would have gladly availed itself of the opportunity to have the facts publicly sifted. I tell Mr. Hungerford that I took counsel’s advice, and was informed that, while there was no doubt that a criminal act had been committed, it was doubtful whether, under the circumstances, a jury could be got to convict. Mr. Hungerford can take that statement with my compliments. I placed an embargo on the company, saying that I would not deal with thieves, and that it was not to be considered as a tenderer for Commonwealth supplies during my terra of office. This Government has lifted that embargo.
– I did not intend to reply to the honorable member if he had not concluded his remarks by saying, “ This Government are to blame for lifting it.”
– Does the Minister desire to make a personal explanation ?
– I do; but I wish to go a little further and explain the facts, and for that purpose I ask that I may be given leave to make a statement.
– It is not in order to reply to a personal explanation, but if the Minister desires to make a statement to the House. I ask : Is it the pleasure of the House that the Postmaster-General have leave to make a statement?
Honorable Members . - Hear, hear.
– When tenders were called for the supply of certain goods to the Department, one of the conditions was that if there was any increase in the duty, the Department was to pay the increased duties to the tenderer, and if there were any lowering of the duties, the tenderer was to be called upon to refund to the Department the amount of the duty overpaid.
– That is in accordance with the Customs laws.
– That is so. In this particular case the Department overlooked the fact that the Customs Act contained this provision, and did not call upon the company referred to, and nine other tenderers for the sale of goods to the Department, to refund duty overpaid. In this case the honorable thing for the firm in question would have been to have informed the Department that they had received this money in excess, but they were not legally bound to do so. In the majority of cases we have sharp business men to deal with, and they stand on their legal rights. When the Department, through the information given by the accountant who had left the employ of these people, called upon them to refund the duty overpaid, and the amount was fixed by an inspection of their books, they did refund the overpaid duty. In five other cases claims were thereupon made from other tenderers, in one instance for over £1,000, and in others for smaller sums. Some of the money has been repaid, but four companies have not yet paid up, and I have given instructions that legal proceedings be taken against them for the recovery of the overpaid duty. As a matter of fact, within the strict legal terms of the contract, it was the duty of the Department to call upon these people to refund the money.
– But they knew they were keeping it wrongfully.
– As a strict matter of law they were entitled to retain it until they were asked to refund it. But what happened so far as the Department is concerned? When the company in question was debarred from tendering, and fresh tenders were sought from firms supplying similar goods, the best tender received was between £6,000 and £7,000 in excess of the prior tender by this company. In another case, I believe that the difference amounted to £12,000.
– What percentage would that be ?
– It would be 25 per cent., probably. I found that the Department would be at a loss of probably £20,000 if I had continued the embargo on these people. It is our duty in this, as in every other Department of the Public Service, to watch these matters very carefully ourselves. We call for tenders, we have a standard, and it is our duty to protect ourselves, and see that we get what we are asking for. When the embargo was taken off this firm, the prices for the goods came down something like 20 or 25 per cent. Although in the circumstances this firm probably deserved some punishment for their sharp practice, though it might be characterized otherwise as looseness on our part, I was, by removing the embargo, saving the Department in connexion with two tenders alone probably £20,000.
– Will you permit me to draw attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that this morning when I received proofs of the Hansard report of my remarks yesterday, I found that there had been taken out of them statements made by another member, to which I had replied. The other member may, conscientiously, and in keeping with the forms, correct the report of his remarks, andhis corrections, when made, may lead to the impression that my remarks have little or no sense or connexion. Would it. not be possible, under the circumstances, for members to have the privilege of seeing what is interpolated into the reports of their speeches, particularly when the interpolations are in the form of statements to which they have replied.
– I may say that my speech is made wholly unintelligible by the omission from it of statements that were made during the time that I was on my feet.
– I shall make inquiries of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter in regard to the matter.
– May I ask you, sir, if it is a fact that you have given instructions that all your rulings are to be taken out of the proofs submitted to members ?
– Certainly. I claim the right of every honorable member of this House to see my uncorrected proofs before they are put into the hands of other honorable members. May I call attention to the danger which could arise from a wrong use of incorrect proofs, and which might affect any honorable member. If the uncorrected proofs of members’ speeches are to be put into the hands of other honorable members, there will be no sense at all in any honorable member being permitted to revise the report of his speech, to correct errors, before it appears in Hansard, and if the uncorrected report of the Speaker’s remarks is to go before other honorable members, the uncorrected reports of every member’s speech may also go before other members. The Speaker should not be placed under a disability under which no other honorable member suffers. If the rough and uncorrected proofs, especially of important rulings, which may contain errors, coming from the hands of the printer, are to be put into the hands of other honorable members, then neither he nor any member of the House will be safe from subsequent misrepresentation.
– A few mouths ago you gave a ruling with which I entirely agree. Upon that ruling I desire to ask you a question. Your ruling was to the effect that no honorable member had the right to see the uncorrected proof of another honorable member’s speech. The question I desire to ask is : By what right, and by whose authority, the Hansard staff supplied you with an uncorrected proof of my utterances and replies to questions by you to me? Do you claim a right which is denied to other honorable members?
– In the hands of the Speaker, and in the hands of the President, the whole of this question of proofs really rests. I do not get the proofs of other honorable members’ speeches, except in so far as they may raise questions upon which I have to intervene.
– But uncorrected matter, sir?
– Order ! I have never received uncorrected proofs of other honorable members’ speeches, nor have I ever sought to get them in the ordinary way, except where they have been included in my own proof sheets as relating to something in connexion with which I have had to intervene. It would be necessary in a case of that kind for me to see what happened immediately before I intervened that I might know whether my own report was correct.
– You have seen uncorrected reports of my remarks.
– The honorable member should be careful, or he will be turned out.
– Order ! For instance, an honorable member may raise a point of order, which I have to decide. I could not possibly decide the point of order without knowing what it was. Very often an interjection, or perhaps two or three, are interpolated by other honorable members altogether. These interjections could not be excised from the proofs. When I spoke of an honorable member not having the right to have access to another honorable member’s uncorrected proofs, I wanted to say that in this matter it is my duty as Speaker to safeguard every honorable member of the House from the liability of his uncorrected proofs being brought in evidence against him when he has not an opportunity himself of revising them and correcting matter which may have erroneously got in, or may have been erroneously reported. In this connexion I may say that this is particularly necessary at the present time, because I have received an intimation that the Hansard Staff find it increasingly difficult to accurately report honorable members speeches, owing to the amount of interruptions that take place, and even their trained ears are not to be absolutely relied upon to give a faithful report of what has taken place in such circumstances.
– I should like to ask you, sir, one question : On this very important matter, have you departed from the custom of the past?
– I have not departed, so far as I am aware, from what has been the practice all the time.
– My proof has been altered, I understand, by the direction of Mr. Speaker. If you, sir, did not do it, I hope that you will be good enough to tell us who did it, because nobody would act in such a matter without your authority.
– So far as I am aware I have given no instruction to alter anything in the proof of what the honorable member said.
– No, sir, but you have taken out several rulings of your own, which has altered the position.
– That is a different matter entirely.I have taken out matter of my own, but have not altered matter of the honorable member. That exactly brings me back to the point at which I started, and that is, that there is no reason why I should be placed under a disability which I would allow no other honorable member to lie under.
Colonel RYRIE. - In regard to the proceedings of last night, I find that it is not made clear in the reports in the press, and in the minds of people, that in transgressing as I did - and I admit that I transgressed - I was subject to very great provocation. I want to make that clear.
Colonel RYRIE. - There were hurled at me epithets which would have incited any man to take the action which I did. I might, sir, draw your attention to this fact, that, although the honorable member for Melbourne Ports insisted that I should withdraw my statement before he withdrew his, after I voluntarily got up and withdrew my statement, he did not withdraw anything.
Colonel RYRIE. - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports insisted that I should get up first. There were a great many epithets hurled at me from round the Chamber which have never been withdrawn, and one in particular imputed cowardice to me. That, I think, was very unfair. I was even called a “ damned scoundrel.” according to the newspapers. I object to an epithet of that sort being hurled at me, because it is very unfair. I fail to see where the imputation of cowardice could have any weight. The honorable member for Maranoa, as big a man as myself, was very persistent with his epithets.
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to that.
Colonel RYRIE.- I do not like to allow a charge of cowardice to rest on me.
– If you want a demonstration, come upstairs.
– Order !
Colonel RYRIE.- I would like to have that matter set at rest quietly and dispassionately. I suggest to honorable members that if they would select six of the biggest or the best men they have, and come quietly-
– Order !
Colonel RYRIE. - Let me finish my sentence.
– Order !
– Here you are, sir, I’m on !
– Order !
– Here you are !
– Here you are !
– Order ! Will the honorable member for Hunter be seated?
– I want, sir, to take a point of order.
– Order ! Will honorable members maintain order?
– Melbourne Ports-
– Order ! Will the honorable member for Hunter be seated for a moment. Every day I have to make an appeal which it should not be necessary for the Speaker to make. My position is difficult enough ordinarily, in all conscience, as honorable members must admit. This continual interruption of the business by disorderly interjections, and by audible remarks all over the chamber, prevents me from hearing or knowing what is going on. The honorable member for Hunter, I understand, has risen to a point of order; but I have not been able to hear one word he has said on account of the interruption. This must cease, else I shall take other action.
– I desire to ask,’ sir, whether the honorable member for North Sydney, under cover of a personal explanation, is justified in this deliberative Assembly in asking that six honorable members from this side should go, one after the other, to meet him, so that he could deal with them.
– That is cowardice again.
– No. The honorable member for North Sydney, if he did say so, was certainly out of order. At the same time, I again emphasize the importance of honorable members remaining quiet so that I can hear what an honorable member is saying. Otherwise I am not able to intervene. The honorable member for North Sydney would not be in order in proceeding on those lines, because a personal explanation must relate to something in which he had been misrepresented or misunderstood, or to something that lie lias said which has not been made sufficiently clear.
– I ask, sir, that the honorable member for North Sydney be called upon to withdraw the statement.
– Order ! I understand that the honorable member for North Sydney, in making a personal explanation, made some statement - I do not know what - which has been regarded as offensive. If he did so, I ask him to withdraw the statement.
Colonel Ryrie. - One thing I omitted, sir, in my personal explanation was to draw your attention to the aggravation to which I was subjected.
– Order 1 Before the honorable member proceeds with his personal explanation, I ask him to withdraw the reflection, or something objectionable which he is stated to have said regarding other members.
– It was a breach of the privileges of the House.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw any offensive remarks before he proceeds.
Colonel RYRIE. - Very well, sir, I withdraw any offensive remarks, but honorable members did not know whether I was going to ask them to come and have a cup of tea or not. My complaint, sir, is that the epithets “ hangman “ and “ executioner “ were hurled at me, and in the circumstances I think that the provocation was very great.
– I certainly understood that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports did withdraw the words he had used - that was my impression. But if the honorable member for North Sydney knew that words of an offensive character had not been withdrawn by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, the time for him to draw my attention to the fact was then, and not now. The question cannot now be raised.
– I wish to ask you, sir, some questions regarding the elimination of certain remarks of yours from the proofs of other members’ speeches. Firsts has such a custom been adopted by any predecessor of yours ? Second, are you aware that honorable members are allowed a certain number of copies of their proofs to be forwarded to those whom they may deem it advisable to send them to, and the proofs, mutilated as they are to-day, would be totally useless and defeat the privilege which is allowed to honorable members ? Hence we are put under a disability, which I am sure you will not desire us to be under when you realize the effect of your action.
– In regard to the first question, I do not think that in the history of this or any other Parliament there is a precedent for the proceedings which have taken place so far as the Speaker’s intervention is concerned. In this case, amidst great scenes of disorder, tumult at times, the Speaker is called on suddenly to give a ruling or to interpose in relation to some matter that has come up-
– I object.
– Which involves him making a statement.
– I protest against such a statement from the Chair.
– Order ! In the course of his remarks he may make a statement which, in the circumstances, may not be as clear as he would have put it in a calmer atmosphere. If honorable members will look at the Hansard proof, they will see that very frequently interjections come in, and that there is sometimes an indication that interjections are so numerous that they are not taken down, an intimation that there was disorder, or that several members were interjecting. In those circumstances it would be grossly unfair to the Speaker, or to any other honorable member, to have uncorrected Hansard proofs circulated over the country or put in the hands of other honorable members. Although it is the practice, and it is allowable, for honorable members to have a certain number of copies of revises, it is not the practice to give them uncorrected proofs for the purpose of general circulation, unless they are satisfied that the proofs do not need correction. There is, I understand, only one uncorrected proof in the first instance sent to an honorable member for his correction. He may correct the proof, or he may not, as he pleases, and then, on application, he is entitled to get a certain number of revises.
– I would like to know, sir, who authorized the sending out of the proof which I hold in my hand? This morning a proof was sent to me, and it is simply impossible to say what it means, owing to the peculiar way in which it is pasted together. There was a good deal of interjecting on the opposite side while I was speaking, and the result was that I had to listen, and then to reply, and thus get something in. If I have not an opportunity to see what I was replying to, how can I correct the proof or say whether it is correct or not? This is the first time in the thirteen years’ history of this Parliament that this sort of thing has been done. I would like honorable members to see this proof that I hold in my hand. The speech is. chopped off after a couple of lines. Then there is a break, and then follows another couple of lines, which, in their turn, are succeeded by another break. Under the circumstances, it is not possible to do anything with these proofs. During my thirteen years’ experience in this Parliament, I have never seen a proof like it. I wish to know upon whose authority this change has been instituted.
– I should like to make some reference to this matter. I have received a similar proof.
– Order ! Is the Prime Minister about to ask a question ?
– Very well, I shall raise the question later if you will not allow me to do it now.
– The Prime Minister will see that if I permit him to intervene when a question has been put to me, every other honorable member may claim a similar right. It is irregular to ask a series of questions in regard to the same matter. I will make inquiries into the question which has been raised., and ascertain what has been done.
– I wish to ask you, sir, if you will be good enough io see that the old practice is reverted to? I confess that my proof was entirely unintelligible, and, moreover, it consisted of a series of slips cut out from somewhere and pasted on a whole sheet. It is impossible, I submit, for an honorable member to intelligently review his own speech in the absence of the matter which has preceded it. I confess I did not think over the matter at the time. I thought that perhaps the position was one peculiar to myself. I do submit that it will impose a disability upon honorable members, and will seriously impair the value of Hansard as a permanent record, if that practice be persisted in.
– Why not regard the matter as one of privilege, and settle it now?
– Is it not better to have the thing settled without submitting a motion in the House? My honorable friends opposite must recollect that all this trouble arises out of their seeing and making use of other people’s proofs when they had no right to do so. I ask you, sir, to take action with a view to remedying this matter.
– I can only say that it is my desire to meet the wishes of honorable members. I desire to safeguard their rights and privileges, and to protect them from having their uncorrected Hansard proofs brought up in evidence against them - a course of procedure which is against all the previous practice of the House and of this Parliament. I do not know what has been done in regard to this particular matter, and I can only inquire into it with a view to seeing how far it has proceeded, and direct the attention of the Chief of the Hansard Staff to it.
– I join with the Prime Minister in his desire that the old system should be reverted to. I join with him and with Mr. Speaker in affirming that so far as practicable the unre vised Hansard proofs ought not to be permitted to go beyond the hands of honorable members, so long as they are white proofs, as between the member who spoke and the member who intervened-
– And Mr. Speaker also.
– And Mr. Speaker, too. I suggest that as they are only proofs-
– Honorable membershave no more right to use them than they have to repeat a private conversation. It amounts to the same thing.
– With all due respect to the view which you, sir, have expressed, I suggest that any ruling which you may give, and which intervenes in the speech of an honorable member, should be incorporated in the uncorrected Hansard proof of that honorable member. It should be recognised by honorable members that Mr. Speaker’s unrevised proofs cannot be used against him any more than a private member’s unrevised proofs can be used against him. When once we have reached that sensible point we shall understand each other a great deal better.
– I shall certainly have regard to the wishes of honorable members. In the words of Mr. Speaker Lenthall, “ I have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear, save only as the House shall direct.”
– Did I understand you, sir, to say in regard to alterations made in the form of the distribution of Hansard proofs, that you did not know who gave the instruction for those alterations ?
– The honorable member did not rightly understand me to say that. I am not aware that honorable members’ speeches have been mutilated by the form in which the Hansard proofs are distributed, and I gave no instructions in regard to that matter. I have already said that I will have a consultation with the Chief of the Hansard Staff in regard to the whole matter, and will endeavour, as far as possible, to meet the wishes of honorable members.
– May I be permitted, sir, to direct your attention to a few remarks which I made on Friday last, when, in the course of a seven minutes’ speech, you gave seven rulings. I propose to hand the proof to you, and I ask that it should be returned, because it will be an interesting exhibit for a museum. At the same time I desire to know who gave the instructions that this alteration should be made in the method of distributing the Hansard proofs ?
– Before I can give a definite reply I must see the proof. If the honorable member will hand it to me. I shall be glad.
– I am sorry to trouble you again, Mr. Speaker, but there is amongst my honorable friends some misapprehension regarding the reply which you gave in reference to the alteration of the form of distributing Hansard proofs. Are you in a position to say who gave the order to alter what had been the custom and practice up to the occurrence of a certain incident a few days ago. If you are not in a position to give us the information, will you give the House an opportunity to investigate from where the order came ?
– So far as any instructions given by me are concerned, they related only to my own speeches. I have already said that I shall consult the Chief of the Hansard Staff, and when I have done so I shall be in a position to inform the House of the matter. I shall take the earliest opportunity to consult with him.
SUSPENSION OFMR. McGRATH.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the Speaker’s statement earlier in the sitting, he has any objection to removing the embargo which was placed on the honorable member for Ballarat yesterday?
– On the 15th October last the honorable member for Corio asked the following question -
Will the Postmaster-General obtain a report as to the number of country telephone lines erected in Victoria under the guarantee system on which a loss to the Department has occurred, and in respect to which the guarantees have had to be enforced?
The honorable member for Herbert also asked that similar information be furnished in regard to the other States. The desired information has now been obtained, and is as follows - New South Wales, 37; Victoria, 32 ; Queensland, 12 ; South Australia, 4; Western Australia, 2; Tasmania, 5.
– The honorable member for Batman recently put a question in respect of the publication of a compendium ©f the Regulations under the Defence Act. The reply is as follows: -
It is considered that such a course is hardly advisable at the present time in view of the fact that during the transition period of the Defence Scheme two sets of regulations have to be kept in force, the one applicable to the voluntarily enlisted men, and the other to those serving under Part XII. of the Act. Under these circumstances, Ihe regulations can hardly be otherwise than bulky, but when it is possible to consolidate the Commonwealth Military and Universal Training Regulations it is considered that much of the difficulty pointed out by Mr. Brennan will be overcome.
A manual of offences and penalties under the Act and regulations is, however, being prepared now. While this manual could not be considered to be a compendium of all the regulations, seeing that it only deals with offences and penalties, it is thought that same will contain a good deal of information in a concise form which should be useful.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister -whether it is the intention of the Government to restore the right of this House to challenge the life of the Government by the old constitutional method of a no-confidence motion?
– All that I have to say is that that right has never been taken away from this House, and that it seems to me- to be exercised every hour of every day that we are here.
– I wish to ask the Attorney-General a question concerning at matter of constitutional law. Will he say whether there is any precedent in the British Empire for the action of the Government in preventing a no-confidence debate being continued to a finish?
– I feel sure that the honorable member, with his long parliamentary experience, must know that a question of this kind can only be addressed properly to the head of the Government.
– I wish to put to the Prime Minister a question that I put to the Attorney-General. Is there any precedent in the British Empire for the action of the Government in preventing a no-confidence debate-
– Order ! The honorable member has already asked that ques tion, or a question of the same character, two or three times.
– The Attorney-General told the honorable member to direct his question to the head of the Government.
– Then I beg the honorable member’s pardon. I did not know that the Attorney-General had done so.
– The question I desire to put to the Prime Minister is whether there is any precedent in the British Empire for the action of the Government in preventing a no-confidence debate being continued to a finish?
– As my honorable friends opposite are constantly claiming credit for making precedents, I should think that they would therefore appreciate our action on this occasion fi we have made one.
– It shows what a fraud you are.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question without notice–
– Will the honorable member allow me to interrupt him on a point of order? This kind of thing is beginning again to-day. I made a reply to the question put by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and he immediately called out, “ It shows what a fraud you are.” I require those words to be withdrawn.
– The Prime Minister desires that an expression used by the honorable member for Hindmarsh shall be withdrawn, and I ask that the honorable member withdraw it.
– I withdraw the words, Mr. Speaker.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the railway gauges of Australia, and, if so, will he state what steps are being taken by the Government to invite consideration of the Committee’s recommendations by the various States?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of his question. I may say that the recommendations of the Committee are available, and are of the most valuable character. They appear to bring the question within the region of practical politics. I am only awaiting a favorable opportunity to thoroughly investigate the whole matter, with a view, I hope, to future parliamentary action.
– There is in this morning’s newspapers a report to the effect that two postal officials have been appointed, with authority to proceed to Great Britain and the United States of America, to make a special investigation into telegraphic and telephonic matters. It is only a few years since Mr. Hesketh made very exhaustive inquiries in the same direction. I desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether Mr. Hesketh’s inquiries and recommendations have been found useless, and what special qualifications the two officers have for the appointment they have received?
– The improvements in telephonic matters, in the United States of America more particularly, are so rapid that it is necessary for us to keep pace with them. The information obtained by Mr. Hesketh was of great value, and advantage has been taken of it. The gentlemen who are to make these inquiries are two of the most competent young officers in the Department.
– The Premier of Victoria - Mr. Watt - has published a splendid speech, bearing upon Australia, which was made by Governor Adams, one of the visiting Commissioners from America. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will request Mr. Watt to supply copies for distribution amongst honorable members of this Parliament?
– I shall be very glad to do so.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he has made any inquiries regarding the charges made by the Western Australian Government for the inspection of potatoes - a matter which was brought under his notice recently by the honorable member for Ballarat - and whether any action has been taken by his Department?
– A despatch was immediately forwarded to the Government of Western Australia, but I am not aware that any reply has yet been received. If the honorable member will give notice of his question, or put it again to-morrow, I shall be glad to give him a more complete reply.
Pointof Order: Mr. Roberts.
.- I desire, according to notice given yesterday, to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz.: - “ That in the opinion of this House the Commonwealth Government should draw the attention of the British Government to the state of affairs existing in the New Hebrides.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– Were they all of one faith ?
– I had a telegram from the Bishop of Melanesia to the effect that the Church of England was not concerned in the conference. He sent me this information to prevent misapprehension. They were not parties to the resolutions, although they were not necessarily against them.
– Speaking from the history of the matter for the last five years, I believe we shall be consulted before any final step is taken.
.- I am sorry that I did not know until the House met that it was the intention of the honorable member to raise this question, because I hold certain views regarding it which I should like to express fully. I cannot understand the attitude of those honorable members who think that the Commonwealth does not possess sufficient territory, and wish to annex islands which belong to other nations. We have tried, in our desire to grab, to settle the New Hebrides by spending Commonwealth money in sending British farmers there. We have subsidized Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company’s steamers, nominally for a mail service to the New Hebrides, but really for the conveyance of British settlers there, and the attempted settlement has proved a failure. According to the census of 1904, there were in that year 200 Britishers and 400 French settlers in the New Hebrides; but, hitherto, French interests have been dominant in the Islands, and the trade has been mostly with New Caledonia, a French Possession. We cannot adopt the attitude that the British are kinder to the natives at any place than are the French, or other foreigners. What is taking place to-day in Fiji? Are not the Hindoos there practically enslaved by the Colonial
Sugar Refining Company? What is happening in our own Territory of Papua, where the natives do not get their wages until the end of the twelve months?
– Let us give the white men in Papua votes.
– Hear, hear; and in the Northern Territory, too.
– And the lawyer is a Dutchman.
– But should we not take advantage of every opportunity to see that better treatment is meted out to these unfortunate people?
– Does the honorable member think that we can call them that after what occurred here last night?
– -I think that they are doing so.
– Hear, hear. He is one of the elect.
– That is not a fair statement to make.
– Some honorable members upon this side were amongst the strongest opponents of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company when the Tariff was being considered, and prophesied exactly what has taken place.
– Then the honorable member’s conscience depends upon his policy ?
– When the honorable member advocates that they should be taught our language, I hope he does not propose that they should be taught parliamentary language.
.- As I understand that the debate on this motion must conclude at half-past 4 o’clock, I shall not occupy more than about three minutes.
.- Unlike the honorable members for Melbourne and Capricornia, I take the view that, whether we like it or not, we shall have to accept, so far as is practicable and possible by diplomatic communications with European Powers, the responsibility of tie management of the Pacific Islands near to Australia. That is a destiny which, I think, awaits this country. I do not think that honorable members ought, in this or any other Parliament in Australia, to lay any charge against a friendly nation and Government in dealing with this matter. The history of Australia itself in connexion with the Pacific Islands is such as to give us pause before attempting to set ourselves up as an example to other nations. It is our duty if there have been abuses in the New Hebrides by the traders or individuals of any nation, to ventilate the matter, with a view to having justice done to those who should receive the assistance of all civilized communities. I am sorry that the evidence supplied by the honorable member for Maribyrnong appears to support statements which do not reflect credit upon certain persons, who need not be mentioned here. I wish to clearly disassociate myself from the view that we should not look forward to the time when Australia will attempt to take over these islands, and govern them as far as practicable and possible. During the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia I interjected that at the Imperial Conference, in 1911, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Harcourt, and the
Prime Minister of Great Britain, agreed that when any diplomatic action was contemplated by the British Government in matters relating to islands in the Pacific, or to any matter affecting Australia directly or indirectly, the Commonwealth Government should be advised prior to any decision being arrived at. The Minister of External Affairs must be aware whether any communication, secret or other, has been made to him on this particular question. If Australia, at any time, should decide to negotiate for the transfer of this group of islands, or other Pacific islands, it must be prepared to pay for them. In my opinion, one of the great and grave troubles in the New Hebrides, as it is in New Caledonia, is that private companies have got possession of the lands of the natives, and are holding those lands as a prize, and extorting tribute. By that means, of course, they have acquired certain rights - rights which we recognise by law, custom, and practice, and which the British nation have taught most countries the worth of - and they are endeavouring to sell them. If the Government of the Commonwealth should have to purchase those rights, according to my experience and knowledge of the amount asked for them, the matter will require very grave and serious consideration. On the main point, I do not wish to be counted amongst those in this Parliament who think we have enough possessions, and ought not to extend our lands in any way. The great mainland of Australia will, in the future - populated, I hope, rich, and thoroughly civilized - extend its civilization to the neighbouring islands in the Pacific, and what other country could do it so effectively and so beneficially? I concur in what has been said by the honorable member for Capricornia regarding our action recently in relation to our own territories. If we were in possession of those islands we would feel in duty bound to carry our policy to them in the same manner and to the same degree as we have done in the case of our own possessions. On these grounds, I would be the last to cast the slightest reflection on the present Administration. I would no more think of doing that than I would reflect on our own country, except for good and sufficient reason, and I mention it, not as a particular instance, but as a characteristic of the. country. It must not, and I think honorable members desire that it should not, go out to the public that the French Administration is less careful of justice and civilization than we ourselves would be. If any comments are made, they are made as regards the acts of individuals, and not as regards the Government, so far as I am concerned. I do not wish to be associated with them in any suggestion that the French Government and people are not as anxious as we are to civilize their own possessions, and look after the best interests of the people who are under their care in these islands.
– I intend to speak for only a few minutes, but I think I may recognise the temperate and generous spirit in which the question has been approached by honorable members. I can only assure the honorable member for Maribyrnong and the Leader of the Opposition that the Government are fully seized of the necessity of seeing that our points of view are presented to the Imperial Government, in view of the possibility of a proposed interchange of communications on the Convention of 1906 taking place in the near future. I may go beyond that, and even say that we have, by cablegram and by a pretty exhaustive despatch, communicated what we interpret to be the sense of Australia in this matter in relation to the New Hebrides. Shortly stated, the position, I think, is that, in 1887, an arrangement for the maintenance of law and order by the Naval Commission was entered into between the United Kingdom and France. When the entente cordiale was ripening, about 1905-6, suggestions were made that that might be brought into some other form of arrangement, chiefly in connexion with land titles. In 1906, the Condominium was framed. It is generally admitted that it is not a success. There are inherent weaknesses in any system of joint control, which do not at all discount from the high standing of the nations connected with it. I join with my friends opposite in paying a tribute to the traditions of France, as well as of Great Britain. I had schoolday associations with France, and historically there is no nation which has higher claims to respect and to the emulation of other nations than that which has the tri-colour as the emblem of its existence. At the same time, there may be weaknesses in the system of administration, which may result in something which is not quite in consonance with the motives which inspired the nations when they entered into the agreement. There are weaknesses in the Condominium. The Joint Court is not altogether responsible for what has taken place. Some time ago, I had the advantage of an interview with the Count Esperanza, the President of the Court. It is a Court composed of the President, who is a Spanish lawyer; a Frenchman, and an Englishman. The Prosecutor is Dutch. The language is French or English. Sometimes two translations are required before the matter reaches the persons who have to apprehend what is going on.
– I presume that is because they have no power to enforce them.
– Has that combined Court no power to protect the natives against kid napping ?
– The Minister thinks the penalty is so severe that the person convicted might lose his life over it ?
– Has anything come to the knowledge of the Government in regard to negotiations for the cession of these islands?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Kendall.) asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
What was the cost to the Federal Government of the s.s. Stuart with equipment?
What is the annual expenditure for running this steamer, including wages, overtime, coal, &c. ?
What is her consumption of coal per day, and the average rate of speed obtained?
By what Administration was this boat purchased ?
Has she been found suitable for the work for which she was originally intended ?
If not, what action does the Government intend to take?
Is the captain only responsible for the control of this vessel?
Loan : Rate of Interest.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 140.
Defence Act -
Military Forces -
Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 273.
Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 280.
Military College - Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 283.
Universal Training - Junior Cadets - Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 282.
Electoral Act and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act- Additional Regulations - (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 277.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at-
Bayswater, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
East Perth, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Melbourne, Victoria - For Postal purposes. Naval Defence Act - Australian Naval Reserve (Sea-going) - Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 281.
Public Service Act - Department of Home Affairs -
Appointment of J. D. Thomson, as Draughtsman, Class E, Professional Division, Public Works Branch, Central Staff.
Appointment of B.H. R. Ziggel, as Draughtsman, Class F, Professional Division, Lands and Surveys Branch.
Variation of appointment of C. L. Clarke, as Draughtsman, Class E, Professional Division, Lands and Surveys Branch.
Debate resumed from 7th November (vide page 2971), on motion by Mr. W. H. Irvine -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill raises, for the determination of the House, a question which is, in terms, a very simple one, but which involves one of the most fundamental principles, and which, perhaps, represents the most vital distinction politically between honorable members on this side and those who occupy the Opposition benches. It is no less than this question: Whether a Government intrusted with the control of public affairs and the expenditure of public funds by the whole people, -presumably for the benefit of the whole people, is entitled to exercise the power of giving or withholding employment in such a way as to give preference to one section of the community over other sections? I do not intend to occupy the attention of the House at any very great length over that point. The point is, in itself, so simple, so clear, so definite, that it needs very little from me to explain the measure. It will be for the House itself to decide definitely aye or no whether the principle of Government preference to unionists initiated by the previous Administration, after, as I shall point out, deliberate conclusion on the matter, is to become part of the administrative law of this land. Before going further, however, it may be as well that I should state the actual facts as to what took place. On the 15th September, 1911, the following minute was issued to the Director-General of Works by the Minister of Home Affairs in the late Administration, the Hon. King O’Malley: -
I am informed that in the building trade we are paying men only 8s. 3d. per day for fortyfour hours a week. I desire that we should pay not less than 9s. per day irrespective of the number of hours worked per week ; absolute preference to unionists.
Please furnish a list of non-unionists employed.
There was no reason assigned as to why the Minister should require a list of nonunionists to be supplied. The reason will, however, be apparent, I think, from a consideration of what actually took place in pursuance of this order. On the 19th September, the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Deakin, asked the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Wide Bay, a question in regard to the matter. The question, which will be found reported in Hansard, Vol. LX., page 570, was as follows: -
I observe from the Melbourne morning newspapers that the Prime Minister has stated it to be the intention of the Government to adopt some method of granting preference to unionists. No doubt, on a matter of such importance, he will desire to take the House into his confidence at the earliest moment, indicating the extent and manner in which the principle is to be applied, and how it will affect existing legislation or regulations made thereunder.
The right honorable member for Wide Bay replied -
I take no exception to the question. The recognition of the principle of preference to unionists is not a new thing in the policy of the Government, it having been part of our policy for some time past; the declaration to which the honorable member refers is that in future the recognition will be general instead of being confined to particular instances. Capital and labour are better able to deal with each other when organized. The unions have recognised rates of wages and regulations governing conditions of employment which enable us to know what price we must pay for labour and under what conditions it can be employed. In many trades, unionists will not work with nonunionists, and it is an advantage to have labour organized in unions so that it may be dealt with. . . .
On that, a motion was made by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Deakin, challenging the attitude of the Government. The motion will be found reported at page 768 of the same volume of Hansard, and I may say that it embodied the deliberate views of all who then constituted the Opposition, and who now support the Government. It was in these words -
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 servants.
s. - As a new member, may I ask if that motion was debated ?
– It was.
– It was not treated as the vote of censure moved last Friday was treated.
INE. - It was debated at length. If the question is addressed to me seriously, with a desire to obtain information, I may tell the honorable member that he will find the debate on the motion reported at length in the succeeding pages of Hansard. The only part of the debate to which I desire at present to refer is the distinct statement made by the then Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition, and reported at page 785, that -
In taking this step with regard to the Public Service, the Government have acted deliberately.
The division on the motion will be found at page 953 of Hansard, and the whole of the members sitting behind the Government of that day, with the single exception of the honorable member for Gippsland, voted or paired with the “ Noes.” That is the plain record of the facts. I have no hesitation in saying that not only did this action on the part of the late Government involve an entirely new departure in the administration of public affairs in any British community, but that it involved a principle to which, I think, no British people who have been accustomed to the free parliamentary government and responsible government which we have hitherto enjoyed, will long continue to give their sanction. Honorable members have always been at liberty to move in support of their own views, and of those of their supporters as long as they have remained private members, but it has always been the position of Governments in British communities, at all events, that once they take their places on the Treasury bench, the trust with which they are then invested is regarded as a sacred one, to be administered for the benefit of the whole of the people equally. In adopting this policy of preference to unionists, the late Government departed avowedly, deliberately, and openly from that principle.
-I am glad that the honorable member admits that we did it openly.
INE. - Not only did they do it openly, but they do not appear to have had the ordinary symptoms of shame which such a course, one would think, would bring with it.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I had hoped rather to evoke that outburst, and I am very glad it has come, because I want this issue to be finally determined, if possible, by the people of Australia, and it is desirable that we should know at once exactly how far honorable members are prepared to go. The claim put forward by Governments that they are entitled to use their administrative power to put those who support them into public offices-
– That has been done for years and centuries.
INE. - Does the honorable member now say - -
– You have done it.
INE.- Does the honorable member now say that he is prepared to support this action on the part of the late Administration on the ground that they were entitled to put their own supporters into public offices?
– That is most unfair.
INE. - The honorable member says that this has been done for centuries. Apparently, he is prepared to support it on the ground that a Government have the right to put men into public offices because they are supporters of the party to which it belongs.
– An unfair statement to make.
y. - Do not misrepresent him. What are the members of the Inter-State Commission but supporters of the present Government ?
Mr. SPEAKER. - Order !
– Such a statement is typical of the honorable member.
R.- Order !
– Your own supporters-
R.- The honorable member for Grey is out of order. I have several times called for order, and my call has been disregarded. It will be necessary for me, if it is not obeyed, to have recourse to other means of enforcing it.
– As a matter of privilege
R.- Order !
– The honorable member for Grey has been wrongly charged.
n. - I did not interject.
– Then I am sorry that I mentioned the honorable member’s name. I mistook the voice. It was the honorable member for Illawarra who offended. I ask him to cease interjecting.
– I shall ask honorable members to consider for a moment the logical and only result of the action which was taken so deliberately by the late Administration. If their action is to continue, it is one which may probably be adopted by both sides.
– It had been done by one side for years.
r. - The other side has always done it.
– If this is done, then we shall have introduced into Australia those tactics which every wise and prudent man has hitherto denounced or deplored in connexion with the political affairs of that great country, the United States of America. There is no greater admirer of the energy and character of the people of America than I am. But we know that, for two or three generations, the wisest men in America have not only felt ashamed of, but have deplored, the existence of the policy of a clean sweep, which takes place whenever an Administration goes out and a new Administration comes in. That great country is now endeavouring to free itself from the trammels of that kind of thing. It is doing so in its State, and also in its Federal, administration with some measure of success. But at the very moment when the people of the United States of America are trying to free themselves from it, we shall implant that rotten principle in the history of Australia, if honorable members opposite have their own way.
– No, we shall not. No one wants it.
y. - The honorable member is not prepared to follow on these lines in his Department.
– I hope that we shall never follow them. “
– A Bill is not necessary to do what the honorable member desires.
INE.- If anything were required to show the necessity of an Act of Parliament to do what we propose, I think it would be found in the jeers and conduct of honorable members opposite at the present moment. Does not every interjection made by them mean that if they were again intrusted with power they would once more introduce the principle ?
– No, it does not.
tts. - It is the AttorneyGeneral’s misrepresentation to which we object.
– Order !
– It is the honorable member’s legal contortion.
s. - They would have it on the statute-book if they had a majority.
– Order! The honorable member for Illawarra is again out of order.
– One of the most significant features of the application of this principle by the late Administration is to be found in the words which were used in the order as actually framed, and on which the present Leader of the Opposition, then the head of the Government, endeavoured, both in this House and outside, to justify their policy. I refer to the use of the expression “ Other things being equal, preference shall be given.” Even if other things are absolutely equal, that fact does not take away the inherent injustice of preferring one section of law-abiding citizens to another. But were other things ever equal in the administration of the late Government? Is it not notorious that in every Department which they administered, and more especially in the Department of Public Works, presided over by the honorable member for Darwin, all those who got employment after the issue of this order were practically coerced into joining a union before they obtained it, while those who were in-
– Who got the preference before that time?
R. - The honorable member for Dalley is out of order in repeatedly interjecting.
– If necessary, I am going to repeat my interjection.
R.- The honorable member is again out of order.
– I am going to repeat the statement.
R. - If the honorable member persists in interjecting he will compel me to adopt another course. I have no desire to do so, but I must preserve order.
– I have no desire to insult the Chair, but when the Attorney-General makes such statements as he has been making I must enter my protest.
R. - Order !
– I defer to you, sir, and apologize.
R. - Whilst no exception can be taken to an occasional interjection, repeated interjections, especially in a loud voice, by the same honorable member must inevitably lead to disorder. I accept the honorable member’s apology.
– I have no hesitation in saying - and I take the whole responsibility of the statement - that, so far as ordinary channels of information with regard to these matters would enable us to judge, those who sought employment in the Department to which I have referred were compelled to join unions without any question of whether the merits of one applicant were superior to those of another. Those who were already in employment were practically coerced into joining a union, or they found their position impossible. If such a principle is adopted and becomes part of our common policy, not only every Minister, no matter from what side, but every departmental head and subordinate officer, who is engaged in connexion with the employment of men, must become the willing or unwilling agent of a political press-gang for the time being. If preference is given by one political side to one section of the community, it must inevitably, in the ordinary course, cause the other side to give preference to the other section of the community. This raises the vital question : What are the circumstances, or what are the facts, that would justify any Government, either by law or in administration, in giving preference to one particular section of the people? A Government cannot give preference to one section without creating a disability in the other section. What right have we, as a Government, or as representing the whole people of Australia, and administering the taxpayers’ money, to ostracize a section for no other reason than that, in the exercise of their ordinary liberty, they decline to become members of voluntary and irresponsible associations? No side of the House has any right to do it. What are those unions that claim this extraordinary privilege? What do they offer to the community in return for the monopoly which they claim the right to create ?
– They are the best workmen.
INE.- I do not dispute for a moment that those unions contain in their ranks many of the best workmen.
– That cannot be disputed.
INE.- I have never disputed it, nor have I ever disputed that the best men in every vocation in life naturally tend to form themselves into unions. I have never disputed the right to conjointly enforce demands, by any legal means, with the greater power that union and association gives, rather than that men should be obliged to do so singly. I think this applies to all occupations in life, and not merely to those to whom alone my friends opposite give the name of ‘ workers. ‘ ‘ There are workers in all lines, and all workers are entitled to associate themselves in unions for the purpose of securing to themselves the full benefit and reward of whatever they have to sell or dispose of, whether it be labour or products. But while people are perfectly entitled to co-operate for those purposes, they are not entitled to claim that the whole machinery of the State should be used to give them a preference which they are unable to gain by their own natural association. I have more than once, in referring to this matter on previous occasions, drawn a contrast between the position of the guilds of the Middle Ages in Europe, which for, perhaps, 200 or 300 years-
– For nearly 500 or 600 years.
INE. - The guilds existed, it is true, for 500 or 600 years, but, if the honorable member has studied this subject, he will know that their period of actual power and utility did not last so long, but only so long as they recognised their duty towards the community of which they were a part. So soon as they degenerated into selfish organizations, working solely for their own ends, they lost their whole power.
– We shall have syndicalism presently !
r. - That was not the reason for their losing power, and the AttorneyGeneral knows it.
– I am not surprised that this discussion should create a little warm feeling.
– This question has defeated two Governments in the past.
INE.- It is the vital principle that separates the whole political point of view of my honorable friends opposite from the political point of view of honorable members on this side. As I say, while those guilds operated for the benefit, not merely of their own members, but of the whole community, they were strong, powerful, useful elements in the civilization of those times. But there were certain principles, above all others, which they placed right in the forefront of their programme and policy. One was the creation and maintenance of the highest form of efficiency in their members. Perfectitude in their particular art was the aim and object of every member of the guild, and, moreover, they recognised that it was a necessary part of their duty towards the public to train the young members to take the places of those who departed. Perhaps the most important point in connexion with the present discussion is that the members of the guilds always held before themselves the ideal of creating a working harmony between the master and the man - between the man who directed the operations and the man who manually conducted them. There was one general scheme from which their whole usefulness proceeded. The young were to be taken and. educated in their duty towards the community as a whole; they were to be made thoroughly efficient workmen, and those who became the more skilful, or by their thrift managed to accumulate a little money, always had the chance of becoming masters and employers of labour. Throughout the scheme there ran the thread which gave life and essence to the whole - that real, rational harmony which ought to exist between all parts of the vast industrial machine.
– The industries were small then.
INE. - I am quite prepared to admit that one cannot push an analogy between the conditions of 400 and 500 years ago and the conditions of the present century beyond a certain point. I admit that in many ways the conditions then were very different; the businesses were small, and so was the capital involved in each particular industry, and the number of men employed.
– And the employer knew his men then.
INE. - I am glad the honorable member has made that interjection. I agree entirely with what the honorable member desires to point out, as I gather from what he says, namely, that the great difficulty of modern industrial arrangements arises from the fact that the employments are so large that the master is often not in sufficiently close touch with his own men. That is a fact known to all of us, and it creates one of the greatest difficulties in attempting to deal with modern industrial conditions. But this does not exempt us from the duty of endeavouring to find, as applying to the new circumstances, some method of dealing with industrial conditions which shall be, not only rational and workable, but just to all sections of the people:
INE. - Just.
– The Attorney-General talks about justice after what we saw in this Parliament yesterday !
R. - Order !
– If the AttorneyGeneral wishes to see justice done, let him reverse the decision of yesterday.
R.- The honorable member for Grey is distinctly out of order, and I appeal to him to remember my obligation to carry the Standing Orders into effect.
Mr. Anstey (to Mr. Poynton). - Go out of the chamber !
– On the next occasion the honorable member will go out for a week !
y. - And the honorable member for Werriwa also !
– Will the honorable member for Bourke be silent?
– I wished to draw your attention to the remark of the honorable member for Werriwa.
R. - I cannot allow those frivolous remarks to continue. I am a sufficiently old parliamentary hand to know when an honorable member is in earnest and when he is indulging in frivolity; and I trust that it will not be necessary to insist in a more effective fashion on the Standing Orders being observed.
– No one will admit more readily than I the immense difficulties that confront us in attempting a solution, from any point of view, of the industrial and capitalistic question which arises, not merely in this country, but in every other civilized country in the world. One of the difficulties undoubtedly arises from the aggregation of employment to which reference has been made, and there are other great difficulties. I refer by analogy to the guilds of the Middle Ages for the purpose merely of pointing out that in those times the cooperation of workers was based on a fundamental recognition of the principle that they existed, not solely for themselves, but for the community as a whole. I am not going to say anything on the question of the efficiency of existing unionists. We hear all kinds of things said, but, personally, I am not in a position to speak, because I do not know anything of the matter. But I do know that, since about the year 1890, present trade unionism has, unfortunately, taken a totally new turn in its development.
– It is absolutely necessary for self-preservation.
INE. - I am glad to find that my statement of a simple fact evokes a chorus of approval; bub whatever the results may be, the facts are undoubtedly true. Until the year 1890 the operations of unionism were purely industrial organization, but since 1890 - approximately from the time of the London dock strike and the shipping strike in Australia - the whole trend of unionism has taken a new course. The honorable member for Dalley has interjected once or twice that he belongs to an old union that still, I believe, adheres very largely, as some other unions do, to what I cannot help believing is the true principle of industrial unionism, and which marked the earlier development of unions; but since that time a new element has appeared in unionism, and the unions - a large number of them - especially in Australia, have ceased to rely so much on ordinary methods of industrial organization, as on making their unions the fighting regiments of political warfare. Honorable members have agreed with me in that statement of fact. I do not intend to occupy any time in condemning such a thing. I am not mentioning it for such a purpose; I merely set it out as a fact, and because it is not without its significance in connexion with the Bill now before the House. A question which I should like to ask some of my friends opposite is - what do the unions offer the community in return for the monopoly they desire to get?
INE. - Ah ! I felt sure “ industrial peace “ would be the answer.
– It is merely a gramophone answer.
INE.- “The millennium of industrial peace in which there shall be no strife.”
– There will never be industrial peace in the present state of society. Strife is absolutely necessary. Without discontent there is no improvement.
INE. - Of course, I know that honorable members opposite always coo like doves about industrial peace in the House; but is it always so outside? Do they say that they are prepared to take away absolutely from the workers under all conditions the right to strike ?
e. - We stand by it, and fight for it every time.
– I am glad to hear that plain and candid admission from the honorable member for Dalley. We have heard it from others. Let me tell the honorable member that I am with him on that point. I say that the time is not yet ripe in industrial development when we can, by law, effectually prohibit strikes under all forms and conditions. I have said it in this House and outside the House on mere than one occasion, and I repeat it again. But the consideration which honorable members opposite say they are going to give for the monopoly they claim is that there shall be a cessation of strikes. In 1904 the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed, and in the very forefront of that measure was section 6, which provides -
No person or organization shall, on account of any industrial dispute, do anything in the nature of a lock-out or strike, or continue any lock-out or strike. and now, though honorable members placed that provision on the statute-book, they say that they are not in favour of enforcing it.
– Who says it?
INE . - Honorable members say that we cannot prohibit strikes.
– Who said that?
INE.- The honorable member for Dalley said it, and the honorable member for Maranoa has said it.
– We are in favour of arbitration as opposed to strikes.
INE.- The honorable member for Maranoa, on page 116 of Volume LX. of our Hansard, used these words -
The right to strike is the only weapon the workman has, and we are not going to give that up.
– His union has given it up.
INE.- Senator Rae, a leading member of the Labour party, on the 14th September, 1911, is reported, on page 431 of the same volume of Hansard, to have said -
My object in making the quotation-
It was a quotation from a London correspondent relating to some troubles at Home - is to show that, until we get an absolutely effective system of arbitration - one under which we shall not suffer from the law’s delays, and take months and months, very often, to get a partial or ineffective verdict - until we secure a very radical reform in the sweated conditions of the workers, even in sunny Australia, men will resort, whether I approve of it or not, to strikes as a reserve power.
Can an opinion be more freely expressed that the prohibition embodied in our Statute is a nullity and a farce? There is a newspaper called The Worker, published in Sydney, which is supposed to represent some of the views of the party to which honorable members opposite belong.
– You have often read it. It has amused you.
INE. - It has amused me, but it sometimes makes one think. I see that in the issue of the 9th January, 1913, under the heading of “ Coming Strikes,” this paper says -
Don’t be surprised if 1913 presents us with some of the greatest strikes on record. It i» not difficult to foresee that in every country where capitalism tyrannises, there will be revolts against the tyranny.
About a year and a-half ago, there was a congress of New South Wales trade unionists. I do not suppose honorable members will dispute that this was a fairly representative body. It was the fourth annual congress, and the report of the proceedings is given in The Worker of the 13th June, 1912. Under the heading of “The Right to Strike,” it points out that a proposal waa made by a Mr. A. Lewis, of the Northern Colliery Employes Federation. The motion, the division on the motion, and the amendment that was carried are rather significant; and I call the attention of honorable members to what actually occurred. The motion was -
That we demand the repeal of all industrial legislation that takes away the right of combination and the right to strike.
After a lengthy debate, the motion was not carried, because the numbers were even.
– Well, it was not. carried.
INE.- No, it was not carried, but it is a rather significant fact that the motion that all industrial legislation that did not reserve the right to strike should be repealed obtained the support of a full half of the members of that thoroughly representative body. Now observe the terms of the determination finally adopted by the majority. It was an amendment moved by a Mr. Morrish -
That pending the establishment of the Federation of Labour, present industrial legislation be allowed to stand.
This legislation has been, it would appear, accepted merely as a stepping-stone to something further. If it is a steppingstone to syndicalism, I object to it. If it is a stepping-stone in which, under the plea that the party are honestly endeavouring to bring about industrial peace, they seek to attain to a position of affairs in which they will not be governed by this industrial legislation, then I say it is a matter particularly pertinent to the inquiry whether it is just or not to give preference to industrial unionism. I ask the pertinent question - What do the members of the unions offer to the community in return for the monopoly of Government employment, which they demand at the hands of the community? And the answer is, industrial peace. But that is only until another step is reached. Since the Labour Government that adopted that policy climbed into power three and ahalf years ago, I venture to think that there have been more breaches of industrial peace than there had been for almost a generation previously.
– That is incorrect.
INE.- Do honorable members on the other side really claim that any condition approaching general industrial peace has been introduced?
– Can you say whether any decision given by Mr. Justice Higgins has been violated by the workers?
NE. - I do not know. I am not dealing with decisions given by Mr. Justice Higgins. There have been more strikes-
– It is the same all over the world.
INE.- That is perfectly true. The condition is not confined to Australia, but applies all over the world. All that I say is that if any particular section claims that the Government should, in the administration of public funds, give them preference over their fellow citizens, they are bound to show some real consideration for it. Can it be said that there is no political connexion between those unionists who claim that Government money is to be expended in giving employment to them in priority to their fellow-citizens, and the honorable members who supported the Government which gave them preference ? Do they not move, live, and have their being in political unionism, and in claiming this preference are they not really making a claim against the Government funds in support of their constituents who send them into this House ? I made this statement before, and the honorable member for Darling replied to it on a certain occasion not very long ago. I supported what I said by reference to the expenditure of the money of some of these unions and the returns of the accounts, and the honorable member brought out in reply to my contention a synopsis which he made of the whole of the expenditure for the last twenty-five years of the very powerful and representative union of which he is the president.
– Watered down for a period of twenty -five years.
r. - I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the interjection of the honorable member for Wannon.
– I ask for the withdrawal of the interjection. That report was genuine, and audited by public accountants.
R. - I did not hear the interjection, but if the honorable member made anything in the nature of a reflection, either on the House generally or on an honorable member, I must ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it; but I do not know of any statement that I made to which the honorable member could take objection. The honorable member does not know what I said. He must have been asleep.
INE.- The figures which were cited by the honorable member for Darling as a proof that the powerful union of which he is the president was not engaged to any great extent in political warfare did not seem to me to support that contention. At present I have not the reference inHansard, but honorable members can look it up.
– This Bill does not affect the Australian Workers Union.
INE.- The Australian Workers Union, which is registered as a union under the Arbitration Act, is a union of workmen, any one of whom may at any time be engaged in Government employment. It depends on the character of work that the Government takes up.
– I desire to raise a point of order. I do not want to limit the scope of the honorable member’s remarks in any way, but simply desire to ask that we shall be allowed to cover the same ground as he is covering.
INE.- The honorable member can describe the nature of unions.
– Will you allow the Speaker to say so ?
R. - The honorable member for West Sydney is out of order. No point of order has been raised, and no objection has been taken to anything that has been said. The honorable member has simply intervened in the middle of an honorable member’s speech to ask me a question.
– If you desire it I will take a point of order. Are the honorable member’s remarks with reference to the whole field of arbitration and all matters incidental to industrial organization in order? I only want it made perfectly clear. I do not wish to limit him in the slightest degree, but ask in fairness that, as you have allowed him to go so far, and if he wishes to go on, we shall be allowed to travel over the same ground. We only want the same latitude as has been accorded to him.
ine.- The object of the Bill is to prohibit preference and discrimination being given in the Public Service to members of political or industrial associations. I shall endeavour to show that it is unjust to give such preference.
– We are not objecting to your doing so.
ine. - I do not object to the honorable member dealing with that point either. I do not know why the point of order has been raised.
– The Bill provides that no preference or discrimination shall be made for or against any person in relation to any employment by the Commonwealth, or by any Department, or authority thereof on account of the membership or non-membership of any political or industrial organization. The scope of the discussion must necessarily be limited by the terms of the Bill itself.
– I rise to ask you, sir, and to ask the Attorney-General, and the Government, if, as the AttorneyGeneral is travelling over the whole field of unionism, we may take it that the same scope will be allowed during the whole of the debate?
k. - No, you don’t. You asked for it, and you got it.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral agree with that?
INE.- I agree with what the Prime Minister says.
– Is there one among you manly enough to speak out?.
INE.- It is quite impossible for members on either side of the House to discuss whether preference shall given to unionists without discussing the nature of unionism. I never suggested for a moment that either side of the House should give up its right to do so.
– The honorable member should address his remarks to his Prime Minister.
INE. - So far as I know, the Prime Minister has said nothing inconsistent with my statement. When the point of order was taken, I was saying that one representative and important union is not merely a political organization, but is in direct connexion with the party which was recently in power and is now in Opposition. I have here the report of a speech delivered in this House on the 19th August by the honorable member for Darling - it is to be found at page 259 of the Hansard records of this session - in which he gives a balance-sheet of the receipts and expenditure of the union for a period of twenty-five years, the last year included being 1911. This statement shows that, amongst other expenditure, there was paid to organizers-
– The honorable member cannot quotethe official report of the debates of this session.
R. - The honorable member will not be in order in quoting the official records of the debates of this session.
– I suppose I shall be in order in referring to the figures contained in the balance-sheet. In it the following items are included: - “ By organizers’ wages and expenses, £53,227.” It cannot be said that all that money was expended for nonpolitical purposes.
– The Liberal party has spent more in one year.
INE.- The question is not what has been spent. The honorable member is entitled to assume, if he likes, that political organizations on both sides have spent large sums - I do not know whether that is so or not - but that is not the question which I am asking the House to consider. The question is whether this union, of which the honorable member for Darling is president, is a political association. I come to another item in the balance-sheet, “ By Worker and other co-operative works, £85,622.” I take it that the Worker referred to is one or both of the newspapers of that name published in Sydney and in Brisbane. It cannot for a moment be suggested that either of those newspapers is an organ of industrial, and not of political, development.
– What are the Herald. Telegraph, Argus, and Age? Are they industrial organs?
INE. - They are political organs as well. I am not questioning the right of the union to spend money in this way, but I say that spending it so, it cannot claim to be a purely industrial, non-political organization.
– We are rather proud of being political.
INE . - Another item in the balance-sheet is, “ By donations to other unions, £34,961 “; and, again, “ By political and parliamentary, £14,360.” No man who has had any experience of public affairs can read these figures without coming to the conclusion that a very great portion, if not the bulk, of the money subscribed by the members of the Australian Workers “Union has been employed for political purposes to secure the election of members to this Parliament.
– That is the statement that the honorable member made a few months ago, but he cannot prove it.
INE. - The honorable member wants proof, and I can give him only a little, but it is good as far as it goes.
– The Attorney-General cannot prove against the unions of this country that they spend their funds on political purposes.
INE. - There has been a by-election since the law was passed requiring organizations to make returns of their electoral expenditure, and a good many returns have also been submitted in connexion with the last general election, but they are not complete, whereas those for the Werriwa by-election, to which I refer, are complete. I am using now figures which were published in the Melbourne evening Herald, but I have taken the trouble to verify them by a reference to the original return in the possession of the Department of Home Affairs. I find that the total expenditure of the Labour candidate for the Werriwa division was just under £100, of which amount £62 13s. 6d. was contributed by the central branch of the Australian Workers Union, Orange. Twothirds of the expenditure of the Labour candidate during that electoral campaign was borne by the union of which the honorable member for Darling is the head.
– We are proud of being political. I have never denied it.
e. - I only wish that we were more political.
– I am prepared to accept those admissions. If honorable members say that the unions are political, that they are their political supporters and constituents-
– They are not all political.
INE.- I believe that they are not all political, but, since 1890, the trend of trade unionism in Australia has been for the unions to become more political than industrial. No one questions the right of the unions, if they choose, to spend their money on political purposes, but, being political associations, have they the right to claim from a Government which they helped to put into power positions for their members in the service of the country, paid out of the public funds of the country? If they have the right to do that, we on our side have the right to reward our political supporters with public office at the country’s expense. I shall not occupy time in discussing the matter further. The issue, as I said at the beginning, is a very simple one. It is for Parliament once, and I hope finally, to decide that no future Government in Australia shall adopt the rotten and injurious principle of rewarding its own supporters, or of holding out baits to future supporters, out of the public funds, -which are contributed to by the taxpayers of the whole community.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. When the AttorneyGeneral referred to a balance-sheet which had been prepared by the honorable member for Darling, showing the application of the funds of the Australian Workers Union for a period of twenty-five years, I interjected that the statement watered down the situation. It was not my desire to reflect on the honorable member for Darling or on the balance-sheet. I merely wished it to be understood that, as the balance-sheet covered a period of a quarter of a century, instead of being confined to more recent years, in which the Labour situation has been acute, it does not put the position as strongly as it could be put.
.- I presume that there will be no objection to an adjournment of the debate.
k. - The measure is a very simple one. We can go on.
– The Attorney-General has also indicated that it is a very simple Bill, yet in his speech he roamed all over the world, and scanned, at least, five centuries of guild enterprise and legislation to show that what the Government propose is to preserve the individual rights of every member of ‘ the community. What he has shown is that there is something in the Bill about which he said nothing. In mild, gentle, and plaintive language he stated that the party on this side lives, moves, and has its being in industrial, political unionism.
– In political unionism.
R.- Well, I leave out the word “ industrial.” The honorable member’s attack, however, was not on political unionism, but on industrial unionism. Under cover of the plea that unions have sometimes political views, he is going to destroy unionism if he can - the same unionism which was ably supported, trained, directed, and cared for by the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman worked himself into a state of excitement, which was unusual for him, declaring that no Government has the right to discriminate between the employment of unionists and non-unionists in the Public Service. I do not agree with him, and I think that this party disagrees with him; but, as he is prepared to make the matter an issue for the determination of the constituencies, I say, on behalf of this party, that we are prepared to accept his challenge, and the sooner the better. The honorable gentleman is prepared to exclude permanent and temporary employes in the Public Service of the Commonwealth from the protection of a law of this country which is afforded to unionists in the employment of private persons. What right have the Government or Parliament to enact laws prescribing the conditions and wages of labour, and the advantages to be conferred upon workmen belonging to organizations, and, while enforcing those laws upon private employers, to refuse to make the conditions provided for applicable to the employment of unionists by the State? The Attorney-General and the Government are quite inconsistent in taking up the attitude they have adopted in this Bill.
– Surely every award does not include preference to unionists?
R. - That is so; but does the honorable member say that because every award does not include preference to unionists, that an award of the Federal Arbitration Court giving preference to unionists should not apply if the unionists are employed in the Government service?
– No; but I say that no award should include preference to unionists.
R. - The Attorney-General contends that unionists, if employed hy the Commonwealth Government, shall not enjoy the advantages of an award of preference granted by a Judge of the High Court. The honorable member for Hume would not approve of that which the AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister are submitting in the terms of this Bill. The Prime Minister’s followers do not agree with the principles, if they can be called principles, which are laid down in this measure. When the honorable member for Hume is free to express his own opinions, without knowing the policy of the Government, on this matter he is frankly against them, but when we come to deal with the matter as an issue to which the Government are committed, I venture to say, from our experience of the honorable member, that we shall find him voting docilely with the Government.
– That is gratuitous. I have said that, personally, my opinion is that we should not allow preference to unionists in any award.
tts. - “ Scab “ labour is what the honorable member wants.
– Order !
– If the honorable member and his friends would not allow preference to unionists in any award given by the Court established by this Parliament for that specific purpose, let me ask what is the view on ‘this matter held by the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the honorable members for Kooyong, Eden-Monaro, and Wimmera? All these members supported legislation to provide for conciliation and arbitration in industrial affairs. They assisted to pass measures framed with the object of enabling a Court to determine disputes that had arisen, or might arise, between employers and employes. They were members, or supporters, of the Government thatpassed this legislation, and are they now behind the present Government in the proposal before the House, and behind the honorable member for Hume in the view he has expressed ? Do they now propose to deprive unionists employed upon public works of the rights conferred by Federal legislation, which they assisted to pass, upon unionists employed by private citizens 1
– The honorable member’s Government swept away all the safeguards of that legislation.
R. - So far from sweeping away all the safeguards, we enlarged the scope of the measure, and imposed no disability upon any one.
– But the honorable gentleman knows very well that his Government swept those safeguards away.
R. - I say that we did not. We extended the principle of arbitration, and we called upon employers and employes alike to form themselves into organizations. We extended the scope of the law, which was passed by this Parliament, and has twice been indorsed by the people at general elections. In the course of his lengthy and carefullyprepared speech, which was, no doubt, effectively delivered, from his own point of view, by the Attorney-General, the honorable gentleman carefully avoided dealing with persons outside governmental preference to unionists. He abstained from telling the people that these laws have been passed by the Federal Parliament to promote the organization of both capital and labour. The party on this side believe that there can be no hope of industrial peace, and little hope of continued industrial, political, and social progress, unless both employers and employes are organized, and in a position to present a united case to the Court. On the question of the Government managing industrial affairs, I have, from the first time I spoke in this Parliament, contended that a Government and a Parliament are incompetent bodies to deal with industrial affairs. This Parliament wisely, in my opinion, transferred to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, with one exception, the powers and duties of Government and Parliament in fixing the rates of wages and conditions of labour. This legislation has worked exceptionally well in Australia. In the Public Service of the Commonwealth we have employed about 29,000 persons, and, I think, threesevenths of the number are casual or temporary employes. I believe the true figures are about 17,000 permanent employes and 12,238 temporary or casual employes, making a grand total of 29,238.
– There are a great many more than that.
n. - Are those figures up to date?
– These are definite figures of the number df persons in Government employment as may be seen from the last Public Service Commissioner’s report.
– I understood the number was over 19,000 two or three years ago.
R. - Do the Government propose in this Bill to prevent temporary employes in the service of the Government obtaining preference under an award by the Federal Arbitration Court?
– We prevent the Government giving any preference to unionists.
R.- Not only the Government, but any agency of the Government..
– And any agency of the Government, of course.
R. - I expected that the Attorney-General would have made his position definite and clear in words that could be understood by every one. We are to understand that if Mr. Justice Higgins, preriding over the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court, established under law by this Parliament, makes an award giving preference to unionists, that award under this Bill would not be effective in securing preference to unionists who are casual employes engaged upon public works.
– The right honorable gentleman means in a dispute between the Government and their casual employes ?
– Yes; or even in the case of a pending dispute.
– Yes, certainly; the Bill would cover that.
y. - The Government have introduced a Bill to enable them to ignore an award of the Arbitration Court.
– We are getting closer to what is contained in this Bill. The railway enterprises of the Commonwealth will probably involve the employment of thousands of workmen of every kind.
– Why should unionists have preference in that employment?
R. - I am not asking the honorable member for Wilmot why they should, or should not, be given preference, but I wish the public to know what the Attorney-General did not tell this House and the country, and that is, that thousands of men will be employed in the construction of the transcontinental railway who, because they will be Goverment employes, working under Government officials, will be deprived of the benefit of an award of preference to unionists granted by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– I am not quite sure that I understood the right honorable gentleman’s question. Will he give a concrete instance ?
R. - I can give the honorable gentleman a concrete instance. In the ordinary course of administration there will be a large number of employes engaged upon public works, under public officers of the railways and other Departments.
– The honorable gentleman means temporary employes.
R. - For instance, I take the construction of the transcontinental railway. There is a large number of men employed on that work at the present time.
– And every one of them is a trade unionist.
R.- That is not my point at present. They are working, not under contractors, but directly under departmental officers, and, as I read this Bill, they will be considered for all practical purposes as temporary Government employes. As the wording of the Bill prohibits any departmental officer from granting preference at all in regard to employment under his Department, even an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court will not reach these men in the employ of the Government.
– If men are in the Government employment, the order for preference cannot have any effect upon them.
R.- I say quite offhandthat the men are in the employ of the Government.
– It has no application in that case.
R.- What are they, then? Why is there all this shuffling by legal men as to the position of the men ? If the men are engaged by Government officers to do Government work in or under a Government Department, and are paid with Government money, surely they are in the employ of the Government?
– On the other hand, if doing the same work and paid with the same money, the men were working for a contractor, they could go to the Arbitration Court, and get an award.
R.- I anticipated that point by declaring that the Bill discriminates by providing that persons working under Government officers at similar work and under like conditions shall not get the rights that belong to workmen in private employment.
– I said that.
R. - Is there an honorable member who heard that?
– Surely that is not intended.
R.- That is the effect of the Bill. The Attorney-General carefully avoided saying it in those words. I do not even say that he cunningly avoided doing so, but, lawyer-like, he skilfully evaded that issue. .Men in Government employment will not get an award that can be given by the Judge of the Arbitration Court to men who are working under a contractor for the Government, as the honorable member for Grey has pointed out. Is that a fair position to take up ?
– I do not understand your question yet. If you refer to men who are in Government employment, this Bill will have no effect upon them. If you refer to the Government employing persons and choosing whom they shall employ - casual or temporary employes, who are not in Government employment - it will apply directly to them; they will get no preference.
R.- Order ! I would remind the House that this is not a dialogue.
– I feel sure that, with your permission, sir, honorable members will be glad to get as full and clear a statement of the position as it is possible to obtain. The Attorney-General was not clear upon that point. He wain perfectly clear on the other point. As regards the fact that the Government -should not give preference to unionists directly employed by them, he took care to put the State on a pedestal. He said, in effect, ‘ ‘ When dealing with State money the Government have no right to discriminate between citizen and citizen.” In my opinion he has not looked at our own laws, in which we do discriminate. As regards the Public Service, for instance, the law provides that no youth can enter the Public Service of the Commonwealth unless he has performed his duty as a cadet under the Defence Act - that is, if he is fit to serve. Why should we discriminate between that one and another one? As regards unionists, the Attorney-General acknowledges that they are the best men. He admits that every body of able workmen will organize, and advises them to do so. He did not tell the House that, from the earliest ages, unionists have had to fight their way through the bitterest of opposition, nor did he say that unionists have organized their own societies and brought that organization to a stage which enables Courts to deal with them effectively, economically, and with advantage both to themselves and to the employers. The honorable gentleman proposes, as far as he is able, to destroy all that has been done by not allowing preference, and so preventing Government employes from getting the advantage they would get if employed privately. The Minister of Trade and Customs need not shake his head. If the Bill means anything, it means that. It is striking at the very principle of unionism.
– Surely that is not intended!
n. - Of course it is.
– It is not intended, and the Bill does not do that.
R. - The honorable member for Eden-Monaro may make that remark, but that is what the Bill says.
– Will you show how it hits unionism at all?
R.- May I say to the honorable member, before we adjourn for dinner, that, in my opinion, the Bill does two particular things. First, it prevents any Ministerial grant of preference to unionists in any circumstances, and, second, it prohibits a Court established by the Commonwealth Parliament from giving preference to any Government employe of any kind whatever.
– Do you say that it prohibits preference to unionists?
R. - The honorable gentleman was talking to the Attorney-General while I was speaking, and, for his information, I repeat that, in my opinion, the Bill does two things. First, it prevents a Ministerial grant of preference to unionists, and, second, it prevents quite as effectively preference to unionists being given by law - given honestly by a Court’s decision. It prevents workmen, in Government employment from getting the benefit of that award. Does the Minister of Trade and Customs deny that?
– That would not prevent people from .joining unions. They could still enter unions as freely as ever.
R.- Does the honorable member believe that that is a right thing?
– You used the words “ Preference being given by law to workmen in Government employment.” You mean no special class, do you?
R.- They may be unionists or they may be workmen. If there were some workmen not unionists the Bill would apply to them. If they were unionists it would not apply. Obviously that is what it says.
– And non-unionists would get preference.
R.- Certainly, for the reason that they had not committed the offence of joining and being in a union.
– That is their object.
R. - That is the object of the Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 745 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was addressing myself to the question of the scope and effect of this email measure. As far as I could ascertain from the friendly interjections of the Attorney-General and the Minister of Trade and Customs - the two legal members of the Government present - the Attorney-General holds one view and the Minister of Trade and Customs another.
– I did not express any view whatever.
R. - That makes my case all the stronger. The Attorney-General stated that what I put forward as a layman’s opinion of the Bill was correct. The actual wording of the measure is as follows : -
No preference or discrimination shall be made for or against any person in relation to any employment by the Commonwealth or by any Department or authority thereof, on account of his membership or non-membership of any political or industrial association.
I maintain that this Bill will discriminate as between two parties of employes who may be working upon the same railway. Letus assume that the Government employ certain contractors to undertake a portion of the work of railway construction. The workmen who are employed by the contractors, who receive their money through a’ Commonwealth Department, may- if they resort to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court which has been established under Statute - obtain an award granting preference to unionists.
– And they may not.
R. - It is obtainable, because that is the purpose of existing legislation. But what will be the effect of this Bill upon employés who are working directly under departmental officers, and who are paid by them? Being Government employés, they will not be able to share in any such award by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Do honorable members say that that is a fair proposition for the Government to bring forward? Do they contend that legislation of this kind will not discriminate between unionists and non-unionists in respect of Government work? It used to be the policy of every party in this Parliament to insure that the Commonwealth Government should be the very best employer in the country. But it is not so now.
– Oh, yes.
R. - From the time of the memorable Fusion that party has hit the toiling working classes by every possible means.
– Just give one illustration.
R. - Since the present Government came into office they have done everything they could to court the smile and favour of trusts, combines, and monopolies.
– Give us one instance.
R. - The opportunity is not afforded us to give instances. Recently we were prepared to give instances when we were closured. To-night, when my time is limited, honorable members opposite wish me to fritter it away by giving useless instances which are already known to everybody. The very object for which the Fusion was brought into existence was to stem the rising tide of organized labour. Honorable members opposite said so quite openly. It was one of the questions on which they appealed to the country, and, largely by wilful misstatements to the electors regarding our position, they were returned to office. Tonight the Attorney-General, in a very dramatic way, exclaimed, “ This is the issue upon which we want to go to the country!” I say, “ Go ‘ ‘ - and, again “Go.” They ought not to swagger around like young children, declaring that they are going to do this, that, and the other, and then employ every device to keep honorable members . from getting to the country. The object of this Bill is to crush industrial unionism. The Attorney-General is wiser than are some honorable members sitting behind him. He took care to safeguard himself by declaring that organized labour throughout Australia was composed of the very best workmen - the most capable workmen - and he added that it was a natural law of human progress that caused the best men to band themselves together. If that be true in regard to the best men, how much more necessary is it for us to protect those who are not even unionists? In our most militant times, not only have we protected the unionists, but have fought for the nonunionists, too.
– We are doing that all the time.
R. - The insidious attempt which is being made to lead people to believe that unionists fight only for themselves in the Courts, and by means of legislation, is absolutely unwarranted, and has not a single fact to support it. The unionists have pioneered every piece of legislation which has made life tolerable and worth living.
– Even by calling nonunionists “ scabs.”
R.- Order ! I have several times called honorable members to order, and I must insist upon silence being preserved. I do not propose to be continually calling “Order!”
– The Treasurer supported the principle in favour of which I am now speaking, and if we knew his mind, I believe it would be found that he supports it to-day.
– If he were Prime Minister, we should get a fair deal.
R.- I do not wish to bring the Prime Minister into it. It is not necessary to do so. He has brought himself into it. No man ever used stronger language than he has used regarding nonunionists. No man ever paraded himself as the great pillar who would oppose nonunionists in every way more than he did. He has stated in this House that while he was in the pay of a union he took good care that no non-unionist was allowed to work with unionists. He has said that they took summary action to prevent that being done. What is he doing to-day ? He does not avow that he has altered his opinions by one iota. He does not confess that he thinks differently to-day. Indeed, he says that he is prepared to do for every one what he was prepared to do for unionists. The Bill before us will discriminate between unionists and nonunionists to the detriment of the former. The Prime Minister has stated again and again that unionists have had to submit to all the sneers and the sufferings which are the lot of pioneers. After unionists have enlightened the people, are they not entitled to the same rights as other persons? The Attorney-General traversed the action of the late Government in saying that there should be preference to unionists in Government employ, other things being equal. Why should there not be, other things being equal? The honorable gentleman has admitted that they are the best men.
– He did not; he referred to political unionists.
R.- The Attorney- General stated that unionists gave the best return for the money which they received. Why, then, should they not be granted a preference? But that is not the only reason. All our parliamentary and industrial institutions are founded upon the basis that, in modern times, it is impossible to deal with the individual. As we are unable to deal with the individual, it is the duty of an intelligent Parliament to do everything that it possibly can to organize capital and to organize labour.
– And will honorable members opposite allow the unionist to vote as he thinks fit?
R. - Yes. May I encourage the honorable member by volunteering the further statement that unionists are usually sufficiently intelligent and independent to do that for themselves ?
– They cannot do it in the case of strikes.
R- There have been fewer disastrous strikes since the advent of Federation, and under our complex system of industrial arbitration, than there ever were before.
– And there should be.
R.- And there have been less and less disasters. The outstanding feature of that legislation is to the lasting credit of the Parliament which enacted it, and of the great Judge who has primarily administered it. But most of all, is it creditable to the good sense of organized labour throughout Australia? Not one of the awards which have been given - irrespective of whether unionists have approved them or not - has been violated by the parties concerned. What can we say of honorable members opposite ? It is but a few years since they pledged themselves to the country, and violated every pledge they had made for the sake of office. See the difference. Unionists stand by their awards, whether they approve of them or not, because of their respect for the law. Fusionists in politics, on the other hand, have violated every pledge that they gave to the country for the sake of gaining temporary place and power, and now that they have temporarily regained office, they are seeking by every means to hit at organized labour, not directly and straightforwardly, but in a politically insidious and indirect way. Why should we have a Bill dealing with this matter drafted in such terms that the Attorney-General and the honorable member for Darling Downs have to consult before they can say what it means? A Government having in its ranks five members of the legal profession should certainly know the meaning of a Bill of this kind; and if they wish to place it before the public in a straightforward way, they can do so. The AttorneyGeneral played nicely to the gallery when he said that if preference to unionists were given by Government edict, Australia would soon reach the position of the United States of America in the matter of the spoils to the victors. No one knows better than does the AttorneyGeneral that the American system recognises that principle. It is not the principle of the spoils to unionists, but rather the principle of the spoils to the political helpers.
– A parallel.
R.- The parallel is complete on the Government side of the House, because if one Labour sympathizer were appointed during our term of office, honorable members opposite immediately objected to the appointment. We appointed three, and honorable members opposite tried to rouse the whole country upon the question. Not one Labour supporter has been appointed by the present Government since they came into office, and they do not intend to appoint one. They believe in the policy of the spoils to the victors. Honorable members opposite know how to give effect to that policy, but, like all persons of little virtue, they parade very much that which they have. When speaking of arbitration, I am disposed to ask the Government and their supporters whether they are apprehensive of the way in which the Conciliation and Arbitration Acts are being administered by the distinguished Justices who are called upon to deal with them ? The time has not long passed since we heard Mr. Justice Higgins denounced in this Chamber because of what were considered to be his liberal judgments in favour of the unionists. The honorable member for Parkes, to do him justice, was quite ready to, and frequently did, express his views on this question in a straightforward manner. In my opinion, the great Judge, who has been the second to hold the distinguished position of President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court of Australia, has done a great deal for Australia. His judgments are acknowledged in every part of the world to be of the first order. Let me quote briefly what was written of Mr. Justice Higgins and his work by Professor M. B. Hammond, of the Ohio State University, in an article published in the American Economic Review in June last -
The strong expressions of opinion are due rather to the fact that he (Mr. Justice Higgins) sees so clearly the fallacy in the assumption that freedom of contract exists in reality between the individual labourer, without property, and the modern employer with the vast resources at his command. The position of an Arbitration Court Judge is by no means an enviable one. He is sure to be accused of prejudice either by employers as a class or by the employes. Mr. Justice Sim, of the New Zealand Court, is as unpopular with employés as is Mr. Justice Higgins with employers, and with as little reason, for the minimum wage fixed by the New Zealand Court is from1s. to 2s. per day above that thus far adhered to by Mr. Justice Higgins, and Mr. Justice Sim has pushed the doctrine of preference to unionists farther than has been done by any of his predecessors or in any Court that I know of. Having read carefully all of Mr. Justice Higgins’ decisions, and having discussed these matters at great length with him in conversation, I feel warranted in saying that he gives no evidence of bias, and I believe that most economists will agree with me that the principles on which he has based his judgments ‘ are fundamentally sound, and that he has, with relentless logic, argued his way to safe and sane conclusions.
And this is what is said by ate impartial critic of the President of the Court to which we ask Parliament to allow every employe to appeal, whether he be a State employe or not. I wish again to state my opinion in this House regarding the competency of a Government, and more particularly of a Parliament, to settle rates of wages and conditions of labour. Honorable members who have had experience of the work of dealing with the Estimates, either as Ministers or private members, will recognise that it is impossible for a body of representative men sitting here to deal with these matters in an equitable way. I have always maintained, and I maintain more and more to-day, that the State can trust itself to the Courts as safely as can a private employer, and that it ought to do so. The State has no right to assume that the Government of the country is capable of fixing wages and conditions of labour in connexion with the various work that it is carrying out whilst a private employer has to go to a Court if necessary to have them fixed for him. It is quite true that, in all circumstances, the Government of the country must have the last word regarding the matter of cost. It is for the Government of the day to say ultimately whether they can provide the money, but no sane democratic people would object to employes of the State being paid the wages, and receiving the conditions prescribed by a proper tribunal appointed by this or any other Parliament. It was said by the Attorney-General that since 1890 a new phase of unionism had appeared. I do not think that that is correct. Some of my honorable friends think it is, but I believe that the political phase of unionism is at least a century old. Not long after the middle of Wast century Thomas Burt, Alexander McDonald, and a whole array of others, came into Parliament. - not on Liberalism.
– On trade unionism.
R. - Trade unionism. They went into Parliament, as Mr. Will Crooks would say, as “a deputation in boots,” to tell the people of the country of the -condition of the toiling masses. After they we’re able to bring certain questions before Parliament and the people, the noble Lords, and more settled politicians, saw that there was something in their policy, and they, too, took It up. The position to-day is, in a relative sense, the same, but in this Democracy of ours we undoubtedly have organized labour. We have practically every adult possessed of the right to vote, and, possessing that right, they have sought new avenues to express their political views. The workers have organized themselves into a party, instead of returning separate individuals to speak for them in Parliament. Should the Government really object to that? Do they say that there is anything improper on the part of people who earn their money in pounds or shillings organizing for political purposes as against trusts, combines, or monopolies, or large employers - organizing themselves to return to Parliament a party to conserve their interests? What is there in that to which the Attorney-General can object ? Nothing whatever. His complaint is rather a compliment to the organized body of workers. The Attorney-General also asked what unionists gave in return for their claim to preference? My reply is that they have given their lives in the past, and tha£ they are giving their best services to every country in which they are organized.
– We have all done that, but we do not claim Government preference.
R.- The honorable member is a distinguished member of his own profession, which is more exclusive than any other.
– And protected by the law.
R. - Protected, and rightly protected, in my opinion, by the law.
– The legal profession is open to every one who will pass a certain examination.
R.- Members of the legal profession are sheltered by the law. The honorable member says that the members of the legal profession have to pass an examination, but so has the artisan and the labourer.
– And a cabman has to pass an examination to get a licence.
R. - Every person of whom we are- speaking has to pass an examination, and is entitled to receive the same protection as the honorable member secures as a member of his profession. But, because it is not yet a popular thing to grant them that protection, the Government do not propose to do so. Why is it to be said of a man who has served seven years at his trade in order to become efficient, and to be recognised as efficient, that he has not passed an examination ? It may be that the examination which the lawyer has to pass - not from a literary or educational point of view - requires the exercise of less intellect than is required of the hardworking artisan who has to serve his time at his trade. Then, why should the one class have all the protection that the law can afford, while the other has none? What does the unionist give up for hia preference ? He risks all that he possesses. He risks unpopularity.
– He buys popularity.
R.- He risks everything that is near and dear to him. If he is a prominent unionist his wife and children may be starving; but let him go to an employer, and with what reception does he meet?
– The right honorable member is “ talking through his neck.”
R. - Am I?
– What about the wives and children of the non-unionists whom you would shut out ?
R.- I am glad of that in- terjection. The honorable member never knew a unionist to fight for conditions that he was not prepared to give absolutely to the non-unionists.
– The honorable member for Darling says he would refuse non-unionists Christian burial.
h. - Mr. Speaker, I beg to draw your attention to the conversations on the Government benches. The continuous interruptions are very disconcerting to those honorable members who desire to listen to the debate.
– I once more call attention to the fact that interjections are disorderly, and I must ask honorable members to restrain their impetuosity.
– The unionists have given everything, and have cheerfully done so-
– With a brick!
R.- I have only just sat down after asking honorable members to observe order, and disorder immediately arises once more. I must insist that an honorable member has the right to the use of his full time in addressing the House.
– The unionists are prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of their fellows; otherwise, they would not be unionists. The Attorney-General has asked, What about the non-unionists? My reply is that they are provided for by Mr. Blackwood, late president of the Victorian Employers Federation. That gentleman, in London, publicly stated that organized capital had established a workmen’s organization, which they supported, in order to look after non-unionists, not because they are the better workmen, but in order to break up unionism. That is a public statement by a gentleman who is the representative of what is called the “ squattocracy,” and of trusts and combines. As I say, this union has been established, not for the legitimate purpose of providing its members with employment, but for the purpose of breaking up unionism. Yet the Attorney-General has the courage to come here, and, with a straight face, declare that he believes in, and would encourage, unionism, although, as a matter of fact, his every effort, and the effort of those associated with him, is to make the lot of the unionist more miserable, dire, and difficult. If they had the power, they would deprive him of every advantage he has gained by the sacrifices he has made. That is the position of the Government - that is the object of the Government - and they declare that they have done away with Ministerial preference to unionists.
– Hear, hearl
R.- I do not say “Hear, hear ! ‘ ‘ That declaration has no value, and will have no effect - it is mere display, as the Attorney-General admitted. The honorable gentleman did not tell us that this Bill before us means any serious piece of legislation; and, in reality, it is merely an attempt, politically, to reach the people by prejudice. I close, as I began, by declaring that this trumpery piece of legislation - this attempt of the Government to appear as the saviours against a horde of unionists who are desirous to destroy the country - is a display of weakness and insincerity that is common to such Governments as this. The Government will continue on their way, despite anything we may say, unless political misfortune overcomes them; but if they have a spark of political manliness in them, or if they value thetraditions of our race and country, as responsible for the carrying on of the government, they will cease to make declarations, and will act. We should appeal to the people, who alone can declare what shall be done, and we on this side shall welcome, and give every facility to the Government to enable, an appeal at. the earliest possible moment.
– The Leader of the Opposition has made a number of pious declarations and general statements, but has evaded the main issue of the Bill. He has talked of everything but the principle underlying the measure. Before dealing with the Bill itself I should like to make one or two general statements. The right honorable member says that ever since this Government, or “ Fusion,” as he terms it, was formed, every effort has been made by us to put down the working classes and interfere with industrial conditions. I challenged the right honorable member at the time, and I challenge him again now, to mention one act of Parliament or one act of administration by Liberalism to the detriment of the working classes of Australia. Inferentially, the right honorable gentleman told us that the Attorney-General had not made a straightforward statement. This is a most remarkable allegation. Hardly a man who has spoken on this side has, in the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition, made a straightforward or frank statement. I do not question the right honorable member’s honesty of purpose, but I object to his exclusive monopoly of self-righteousness in this Parliament. The Bill, first of all, clearly and distinctly makes no attack on industrial unionism of any kind whatever; there is not a single line in it which in any way infringes on legitimate unionism. In the second place, there is nothing in the Bill, so far as the general arbitration laws of Australia are concerned, which does an injury to organizations of capital or labour formed for the purpose of those Acts. The right honorable gentleman spent most of his time in1 speaking as though this Bill were confined solely to an attack on the arbitration laws. He forgets the most important aspect of the minute of the late Government which is assailed by this Bill. Up to 1910 our proud boast was that the only grounds to be taken into consideration for public employment were efficiency, merit, and fitness. Never was an appointment made except strictly in accordance with the principles laid down in the Public Service Act. In 1910, however, a new principle was introduced by the Labour Government.
– In 1910?
– It was in 1910, I believe. As a matter of fact, the principle had been in operation nearly nine months before it was made public by a deputation from the Trades Hall in 1911, and I think I remember the honorable member for Maranoa remarking on the number of unionists who, by the operation of the rule, were already in the Public Service, and how non-unionists could not be much hurt by it. It was about that time that the announcement was made public that, “other things being equal,” preference would be given to unionists. I wish honorable members to realize that the Leader of the Opposition never once during his speech attempted to defend entry into the Public Service on the ground of preference to unionists; he avoided that issue right through, although it is the vital point, and was emphasized by the AttorneyGeneral when he remarked that it was not desirable to introduce anything of the nature of patronage into the Public Service, but that only efficiency should be considered. Up to 1910, as I say, the principle of preference was not in vogue. Names were registered in the order of application, and no questions were asked as to class, creed, religion, political faith, or anything else. The point was, “ Are you efficient and fit for the position; if so, then let the best man have it ? “ This Bill seeks to set aside the principle of preference clearly and distinctly. Shall the Public Service be free and open to all persons, irrespective of class, creed, or political faith, and efficiency be the basis, or shall employment be given to unionists, “ other things being equal “ 1 There is the dividing issue. This is a matter to be taken out of the hands of any Executive, decided by the people, and embodied in a Statute. Henceforth, by this Bill, the Executive will know that it is the wish of the Australian people that in public employment efficiency alone shall be considered. As I have said, the Leader of the Opposition, during the whole of his remarks, did not touch on this vital principle. He never attempted to justify preference to unionists as a condition of entry to the public positions. We were told, by way of interjection, that there has been no coercion of men into unions; and I should like to read the following extract from a letter dated 2nd April, 1913, and addressed to Mr. R. L. Meeking, 21a Marlton-crescent, St., Kilda -
I have the honour to inform you that approval has been given for your appointment as Field Hand in connexion with survey work in the Northern Territory, with wages at the rate of is. 5d. per hour of forty-four hours per week. This approval has been given on the understanding that you are a member of a recognised union. If you are not, it will be necessary for you to take steps to join at once, otherwise the agreement lapses.
If other things were equal, why make this man become a unionist ? He ought to have been selected because he was the best man for the job; but he was told that if he did not join a union his agreement would lapse. That is the way “ Preference to unionists, other things being equal,” works out. That letter was signed by Mr. Atlee Hunt, the Secretary to the Department of External Affairs, and the Minister at the time was the honorable member for Barrier. I am sure, however, that that honorable gentleman was only acting on the principle that any other member of his Government would have acted. That is the way in which this operates. Of course, we must reason it out. The Labour Government gave preference to unionists. Let us examine their reasons for so doing. According to the honorable member for Wide Bay and others, we should give preference to unionists because of the splendid fight unionists have put up for industrial unionism. If men are to be appointed to the Public Service, not because they are the best men for the jobs, but because they have rendered some service to the community, why should that service to the community be confined to one object only ? If a man has performed some great religious service for the community, is that not to be recognised ? Or, if he has done great work in promoting industries in certain directions, is that to be set aside ? If to reward some service rendered to industrial unionism we may depart from the principle of making appointments to the Public Service on merit alone, we are entitled to depart from that principle on other grounds; but if we are not entitled to depart from it on those other grounds, then we have no right to depart from it at all. In other words, the public offices of the Commonwealth are not to be used as rewards to any one for services rendered outside to the community as a whole. The second ground advanced by the ex- Prime Minister and others was that unionists have done such splendid work in lifting wages up. I agree with these honorable gentlemen that unionists have done splendid work in that direction.
– Then why penalize them ?
M. - I agree with the honorable member that no man should be penalized’ because he is a unionist, but I go further and say that, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, no man should be penalized on the ground that he is a non-unionist. Why should preference be given in Government employment on the ground that the unionists have done such splendid work in lifting up wages? The matter of Government employment is quite distinct from that of private employment. We cannot compare public employment with private employment in this matter. One of the principal reasons why preference is given to unionists in private employment is that people have been victimized, but the Government have never yet victimized unionists, so that ground cannot apply in the matter of Commonwealth employment. So when we examine the reasons we find there is not one valid ground that can be advanced for giving unionists preference over other persons in Government employment. Now, let us take the strong reasons against giving that preference to unionists. First of all, giving preference to unionists would fetter and tie the hands of the Commonwealth, and prevent us from having free selection in getting the best men. The second objection to preference to unionists is a serious one. It is that unions are becoming daily more and more political.
– That is what troubles you.
M. - That is the trouble. We were told by the honorable member for South Sydney that one reason why unionists should get preference was that it would produce industrial peace. That sounds very nice. I am sure that if Australians thought preference to unionists was. going to maintain industrial peace, and that if there would be peace all through the country if preference to unionists was given to-morrow, there would be very strong ground in having that condition granted. But let us see what the member for Darling has said in regard to industrial peace. He has made this statement -
There are only two classes in the political field, and there oan be nothing but war between them until Capitalism as a social system is thrown over altogether.
– That is absolutely true.
M.- The honorable member for South Sydney, with an angelic smile, tells us that there will be industrial peace, but the organizer of the most powerful union, the honorable member for Darling, says that there will be no industrial peace until the whole social system is thrown over. So we have these two leaders of unionism telling us different tales. Even where they have had preference to unionists, I do not think we can see that industrial peace has followed. Have the Government servants been free from strikes in Australia? With a Labour Government in power, the producer suffered heavily from a strike on the railways of New South Wales. There is no guarantee in regard to the Public Service that preference to unionists will secure industrial peace. One of the most serious objections to preference to unionists is the fact admitted by honorable members that trade unions are becoming more and more political. I have a return published by the Queensland Registrar-General for 1911. It deals with small fractions only of the unionists of Australia, and it is a sample, but it shows that the expenditure from 1910 amounted to £25,428, of which £4,641 was paid away for benefits, which are the legitimate objects of unions.
– How do you know that?
M. - -I say they are. These benefits are, to my mind, legitimate objects of unions. This return is based upon those furnished by the unions, and shows that the total expenditure in Queensland on management of unions was £8,607, while no less than £12,180 was devoted to other payments, mainly assistance to other unions, legal and political expenses, and subscriptions to labour newspapers. To-day, we have a statement by honorable members opposite that these unions are becoming political. If I desire to join a union which is political in its objects, I am compelled to subscribe to purposes which carry out all the objects and aims of political unions.
– Not in all of them.
M. - In many instances the moneys are devoted to that object
– Give me a typical instance.
R. - I have several times called order. I ask honorable members to allow the Minister to occupy the short time at his disposal.
– The honorable member for Darling said, in opening a conference representative of over 100,000 workers -
The amalgamation would enormously extend the influence of labour, both industrially and politically. Unless the industrial and political movements were interwoven it was little use striving for the accomplishment of their aspirations.
Honorable members will admit that preference to unionists is to be a permanent feature of their programme. There is to be no discretion with the Government. It must be absolute employ ment of unionists, other things being equal. If a man comes to a public office and asks for employment, he is to be asked, “Are you a member of the union or not? “ In view of the fact that unions are becoming more and more political, if he wishes to get employment in the Public Service of Australia, in respect w which employment there is a recognised union, he may have to sacrifice his conscience and political convictions before he can be employed. A condition of that sort would be the grossest violation of individual liberty that any British community has ever seen.
– A few years ago, when you were fighting your present allies, you were hanging round the coat-tails ofunionists.
M.- The honorable member’s statement is grossly inaccurate. If I have said anything unparliamentary, I apologize, but I have always held my present views, and constantly expressed them. The honorable member should be the last to talk as he does. He forgets his own entry into the House and his present position. Never have I voted for preference in obtaining employment in any Government service, and the honorable member knows it. Let us see some of the grounds on which judicial preference has been exercised by the Courts. The Arbitration Act has not, at any time, given absolute preference to unionists. It has always been judicial preference, and’ it is interesting to note how this has been exercised. I find that Mr. Justice Edwards, of New Zealand, where there was judicial preference, in giving an award, said -
The claim of the union to a preference of employment in my opinion necessarily fails when it is ascertained that the union is not really representative of the greater number of the workmen employed in the trade, and the claims of the union have not resulted in any practical benefit to the bulk of the workmen.
The first application for preference to unionists made before the Commonwealth tribunal was made to Mr. Justice O’Connor, in the Australian Workers Union case, and the Judge said -
The granting of preference to members of the Union puts a limitation on the employer’s freedom of choice in selecting his workmen ; it also places at a disadvantage in obtaining employment all persons exercising the same avocation who are not members of the Union.
The claimants, however, have failed to put before me any reason for exercising my discretion in favour of granting preference. Mr. Reid relying on the legal position that I was bound to make the order, has abstained from urging any argument in support of my exercising my discretion to grant it.
He then goes on to deal with the political side. In those days, no preference could be given To any union that applied its funds to political purposes, and dealing with that point, Mr. Justice O’Connor says -
In aid of these objects rule 48 provides for the establishment of a political fund to be available on behalf of duly-pledged Labour candidates approved by the Union. There is no suggestion throughout the rules that the political ends aimed at are to be limited to the subjects set forth in the proviso to section 55. In the face of these declared objects of theUnion, it is impossible to hold that the rules of the Union do not permit the application of its funds to political purposes. Apart from any other consideration, therefore, the rules themselves make the granting of the application for preference impossible.
There are two points involved there. First, on the general ground of preference, Mr. Justice O’Connor decided that no grounds for preference were shown, and the second point was that the objects were political, and, therefore, preference had to be refused.
– Because it was prohibited by the Act.
M. - I am telling the honorable member so, and also that, in 1910, this House had rushed through it, at express speed, an Arbitration Bill which repealed the sections relating to political objects. It was especially provided that, under the Act, preference might be given to unions, although they were political in their objects and purposes.
– You do not dare to reinstate the old section.
GROOM. - Our opposition to the present provision is just as keen as ever.
r. - Why do you not repeal that part of the present Act?
– We intend to do so.
M. - There were three safeguards against the exercise of judicial preference to unionists in the Act of 1904. Speaking from memory, they were, first, that the application could not be granted until notice was published in the Gazette, and everybody had an opportunity of coming in and opposing it; second, that, in the opinion of the Judge, those applying for it had to represent a majority in the industry concerned; and, third, that the application could not be granted if the objects of the union were political in their character. As soon as our friends opposite got into power, they repealed the whole of those safeguards.
– Quite right.
M. - That is a matter of opinion. I have here the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins, delivered in 1911, in the case of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australia versus The Broken Hill Proprietary Company and others. At page 25 he said -
But I am very loath to interfere with the employer’s absolute discretion in choosing his employes without the employer’s consent, or, some very strong necessity. This absolute power of choice is one of the recommendations of the minimum wage system, from the employer’s point of view - he can select the best man available when he has to pay a certain rate. This freedom of choice tends to the efficiency of the industry, bracing up the men to show their powers. Moreover, I find, in this case, at present, no disposition or wish on the part of these employers to discriminate as against unionists. There is a general desire among the employers who have given evidence to be fair, and to get the best men that they can at the price. The burden of proof lies on the claimant to show that preference ought to be granted, and that burden has not yet been satisfied.
– What do you object to in that statement?
M. - I do not object to it. In that case the Judge was asked to give preference to unionists, and exercised his discretion, with full power to do it. He said that it interfered with the employers’ discretion, with which he was very loath to interfere, pointed out that freedom of choice tended to efficiency, and found that no discrimination had been practised.F or those three reasons he said no preference ought to be granted; but honorable members opposite did not give any discretion at all to officers employing public servants. They were bound to give preference in every case that came up before them. Preference had to be given to unionists, other things being equal.
– Give us Mr. Justice Higgins’ decision in the Brisbane case.
M.- I shall refer to that with pleasure. In the case of the Federated Seamen’s Union of Australia against theCommonwealth Steam-ship Owners Association and others, volume 5, page 170, the Judge gives various reasons in favour of preference, and then says-
And there is much truth in this also. But it does not follow that an order for preferenceis a fit remedy. I desire to confine my remarks to the case actually before me; but, to my mind, a claimant ought to make out a very strong case before the Court could fetter the discretion of the employer in selecting his employes. The order should be shown to be clearly necessary in order to secure fair conditions for the men. Much depends on the meaning of “ other things being equal.” . . .
I propose to say that the Court does not see fit to grant any order for preference to members of the organization at this stage, but the refusal is without prejudice.
– What point do you make out of that case ?
M. - An application for preference was made to the Judge. The Judge said a strong case ought to be made out before it could be granted, and decided that in that instance it ought not to be granted. Under the decree of the late Government, if men walked up to the public office the officials had no discretion; they were bound to take them on if they were unionists, other things being equal. Let us turn now to the Brisbane Tramway case, as given on page 19 of the special report. The Judge condemned the Brisbane Tramway Company for victimizing unionists. We need not traverse that point.
– You would not do that.
M. - There is no need to do it. We will assume that the Judge was justified in finding it. I presume that, like myself, honorable members opposite have not heard the evidence, and must accept the Judge’s statement of the case. He says -
If I could find any other method of protecting the members of this association from the intimidation which Mr. Badger practised, I should use that method rather than do anything tending to restrict him in the choice of employes ; but the law provides me with no other means. I have asked the company to undertake not to discriminate against members of this association. I have no power to make an order against such discrimination, but if the company gave me its undertaking I should be satisfied with it, and should refuse to order preference.
In that case, and in those circumstances, the Judge, after full deliberation, made an order for preference. In every other case he refused to give preference to unionists. He gave it in this case because of victimization. The preceding Government granted absolute preference, but when we look to see how a Judge, in his judicial capacity, granted preference, we find that the only ground on which he gave it was victimization. Is there such a threat or so much fear of victimization by Governments in Australia that absolute preference should be granted in the Public Service? I hold that there is absolutely none whatever.
– What Government put preference to unionists in the Arbitration Act?
M. - The whole of the House did it in a matter between employer and employe. It provided for judicial preference, but it did not enact an absolute preference.
– You were in that Government.
M. - I supported the Bill all through, and it was on my motion that political preference was prohibited, but the Bill was passed in 1904, and I was not in the Ministry then. I have supported, and will support, the principle of industrial legislation, but I have always protested, and will protest to the end, against the use of the powers of the Government to secure political tyranny in connexion with industrial unionism. Not one reason that would hold water can be advanced in favour of preference to political unions. On the contrary, everything points to the exercise of this power as being tyrannous in its operation, cruel in its results, and utterly destructive of efficiency.
– You might give one illustration in support of that frightful charge.
M. - I say that that is the result. As regards the Public Service Act of Australia, passed by the first Parliament, we all rejoiced, because we believed that it put an end to political patronage.
– This Bill has nothing to do with the Public Service.
M.- The honorable member could not. have read it. It does affect it, and it will prohibit any Government from excluding men by an Executive act from application or entry to the Public Service on account of certain opinions that they may hold or prevent preference in employment. Political patronage has an absolutely corrupting influence on the community. When we find that unions are becoming more and more political every day, as is admitted, and that the leaders are binding them more and more to distinct principles not relating to unionism at all, but to Socialism and other things altogether outside unionism, and when we give in the public employment preference to those persons, which practically amounts to giving all possible preference on account of the political views that they hold, we are really getting back to the old system that was repealed. A striking passage occurs in May’s Constitutional History of England, Volume 2, page 233, applying to a state of things which, if this policy were persisted in, would be reproduced in Australia.
– -How many hundreds of years ago?
M. - The policy of the Opposition is always to go back to the Acts of the past for their ideas. During their regime some of the great principles that were fought for in the past were violated by them. May says -
It has been noticed elsewhere that while the number of places held by members of Parliament was being continually reduced, the general patronage of the Government had been extended by augmented establishments and expenditure. But throughout these changes, patronage was the mainspring of the organization of parties. It was used to promote the interests and consolidate the strength of that party in which its distribution happened to be vested. The higher appointments offered attractions and rewards to the upper classes, for their political support. The lower appointments were not less influential with constituencies. The offer of places, as a corrupt inducement to vote at elections, had long been recognised by the Legislature as an insidious form of bribery. But without committing any offence against the law, patronage continued to be systematically used as the means of rewarding past political service, and insuring future support.
That passage applies admirably to the present position. This Bill strikes at the evils of patronage, and if it is passed that insidious principle which honorable members opposite attempted to introduce will be destroyed.
– I suppose that passage related to the fourteenth century?
M. - The honorable member is trying to reproduce the conditions which then prevailed. It is necessary, in the interests of the public, that the people should declare most emphatically that the Public Service of Australia shall be thrown open to everybody, irrespective of class, creed, or political views. Efficiency and fitness for the duties to be performed should alone be the determining factors in appointments to the Public Service of Australia.
.- To-day we have had an opportunity of seeing and hearing something of the second proposal by which the Government, on a date not yet definitely fixed, is to seek the opinion of the people. This purports to be a Bill dealing with preference to unionists, and we have had from the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister of Trade and Customs dissertations covering a very wide field, dealing in general with the conditions of labour, with the relations between employer and employe, and, in particular, with preference of employment to unionists. The references of the AttorneyGeneral to the measure were vague and meagre; his honorable colleague dealt with it more closely. But. I wish to say now, and at once - because one never knows in these days what may happen - that the Bill is a sham. We were led to expect a frontal attack on the principle of preference to unionists, but this measure completely evades the issue. It is a mere placard, and a very poor one. Moreover, it is impossible to conceive that the two Ministers who have spoken, both of whom belong to the legal profession, can be ignorant of the fact that the measure is in no way necessary for the purpose for which it is alleged to be required. I say emphatically, this Bill is not necessary to prevent preference being given to persons employed in the Public Service. No Act is necessary for such a purpose. At the most, it is a mere declaratory measure. It is a prohibition, but we do not know to whom it is directed. If it is a prohibition directed to the Judiciary, it is impudent; if directed to the Government, it is unnecessary. So much by way of preface.
Let me now contrast what has been said to-night and what was said during the electoral campaign with what honorable members opposite now propose to do. During the electoral campaign they inveighed against preference to unionists generally, not merely against preference to unionists in the Public Service. According to the Leader of the Opposition, some 29,000 persons are employed in the permanent and temporary branches of the Public Service, and there are in Australia at least 600,000 or 700,000 adult workers, of whom, at a moderate computation, 300,000 are unionists.
n. - Four hundred and fifty thousand.
– I wish to be well within the mark. We have been told that unionism is an evil vitiating the very fountains of democratic and representative government, threatening the fabric and its foundations throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. We were told that it is a great and growing evil. Thank God, unionism is growing every day ! No quarantine, nor any means known to man, can check its advance. No virus that the_ Government know of, no vaccine which they possess, can hinder this movement, which began in spite of them, is going on in spite of them, and will continue to flourish long after they are in their political graves. But they call unionism as we know it an evil. What, then, do they propose to do with this evil, as they call it? They pro.pose to let it go on. According to’ them, there are thousands and tens of thousands of non-unionists - cheerful, honest, bright, industrious citizens - who are striving, God knows under what difficulties, to earn their daily bread, and opposed to them is this tyrant, this Colossus of unionism, which threatens to take away their small opportunities for making a living. What do honorable gentlemen opposite propose to do with this terrible evil? They propose to let it go on. Unionism stretches over the whole country from Dan to Beersheba, from Bunbury to Wilson’s Promontory. It affects every worker in the land. Yet the Government proposes to legislate in regard to only 29,000 public servants, who do not make up a twentieth part of the workers of the Commonwealth. Furthermore, of these public servants, 17,000 are completely beyond the scope of this measure. The permanent public employes cannot be affected in any way, good, bad, or indifferent, by this proposal of the Government. The measure, then, relates, if it relates to any one, to the 12,000 temporary employes of the Commonwealth .
What an anti-climax ! We have the country overspread with what the Liberal party considers a great industrial pestilence, and Ministers propose to squirt their rosewater remedy on one out of every fifty of the sufferers. What a bold, courageous policy this is ! But let me cut into it a little deeper. This Bill, which purports to attack the general principle of preference to unionists, in no way really affects even those at whom it is aimed, because the party opposite is pledged to abolish day labour, and to substitute contract labour. When that is done in connexion with the public works of the Commonwealth, the only ground in which this little seedling could take root disappears, and there remains no one whom the measure could affect. That is the literal truth without exaggeration. We have listened for two hours to a tirade against unionism. What shall we say of the remedy that is to be applied ? We had a right to expect something; but here is nothing. , The Government propose a crusade against no living being. We have the public declaration of Ministers - God knows that that does not count for much - that they are pledged to the abolition of day labour; and the fulfilment of that pledge rings the death knell to any preference to unionists that can be affected by the measure. So much for that point.
During the electoral campaign Ministers denounced unionism, and, in particular, political unionism. To-night the Attorney-General gave us his ideas on the subject of unionism, illumined here and there with the candid admission that he did not know much of the subject. It is a pity that he did not preface his remarks with that admission. He said that since 1890 unionism has been getting political, that it is no longer content with industrial organization, but had bent its efforts towards political action, its objective being Syndicalism. I do not expect that every man in this House should intimately concern himself with economics. It were to ask too much to require that men whose business it is to make laws should understand the warp and woof out of which they are fashioned, but I protest in the most passionate and emphatic way against this miserable exposure of my honorable friend’s ignorance. What is Syndicalism ? It is the denial of the efficacy of the law, and of all political action. It is the red flag. It is ‘sabotage. It is the pushing aside of the political machine, and the marching on to victory by force. It is, in short, the substitution of force - of direct action - for political action. The honorable and learned gentleman calmly tells us that, for years, unionism has been getting more and more political, its objective being Syndicalism. That is like saying that, for years, the people have been getting more Christian in profession and practice, their objective being hell ! I would that I could applythat to my honorable friends opposite, wishing them a rapid journey and Godspeed.
What was the position of the Government as set forth during the election and by the honorable and learned gentleman. It is opposed to political unionism. According to the honorable and learned member, political unionism is a thing accursed. But the honorable gentleman who leads the Government was once upon a time a unionist. Ho cannot shelter beneath the cloak of ignorance that covers his colleagues, who have seen the industrial world only from the outside. He knows what it is to earn one’s living with one’s hands, and by the sweat of the brow. He has gone down into the bowels of the earth to toil. He was a miner, and has never denied his origin, being proud of it. Moreover, he has always said that he believed in unionism, and quite recently made a profession of faith, which I will read. It is to be found in the Ilansard record for the 26th September, 1911, Vol. LX., page 787-
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 benefit for which the other is paying and working.
The honorable gentleman believes in industrial unionism, and even quite recently he again asserted his belief in it. He objects, so he says, only to political unionism. We have just listened to a wail from the Minister of Trade and Customs about political unionism, which denies the right to men in this country to freedom of opportunity to get their living. Freedom ! Freedom sounds well on the lips of these gentlemen, saturated as they are with the events of the past week in this House. Freedom of -action and freedom of speech ! The little tin gods must laugh when they hear such speeches as these from such men. My honorable friends denounce political unionism, and why? One would imagine that the use of funds for political purposes was a crime. What have we come to in this twentieth century of civilization that we should hear political action denounced as if it were anathema? After man has been marching for 300 years steadily in one direc- tion, laying aside force and adopting more civilized weapons, when every forward step taken by the men of our racehas been in the direction of securing by political means those rights which were denied to the people in the past, are we now to be told that to seek redress by political means is a crime? Unionism ischarged with spending money for political purposes. In what more civilized, more equitable, or more proper way could money be spent than that by which civilization for these centuries has progressed ? Political purpose ! That isthe very purpose for which we are all here. It is the principle upon which democratic government rests. This community lives, breathes, and expresses itself politically. There is not an act done, or permitted to be done, unless through political means. By political means we make the laws under which we live, and nothing can be done save under the sanction of law. Yet we are told that we are pariahs, because for the last twenty years we have begun to open our eyes and spend our money, not only in a profitable, but in a proper, direction. If the charge against unionism is that it spends its money to secure reforms by political means, it needs no answer.
These gentlemen talk about freedom and independence, and their only effort in the direction of independence is to subsidize the so-called Independent Workers Union, whose solitary purpose it is to do the dirty, contemptible, work of those who dare not meet unionistsface to face. That is their work for independence. As for their work for freedom and liberty, it is written in the imperishable records of this House. Why do they denounce political purposes? It is the sole cause which brings us here. It is the foundation of our very existence. I shall tell honorable members why they object to it. Even the Honorary Minister - the honorable member for Wentworth - now saysthat he is not opposed to industrial unionism. They all now say that they believe in it. Why? Because it is a fact so patent that the blind see it. It is a fact which screams from one end of the country to the other, so that the deaf must hear it. It is something so undeniable that every man admits it, and 99 out of every 100 agree with it - in moderation. When unionism was au outcast they stoned it. Now, when, in spite of their bitter opposition, it has grown powerful, they are compelled to conceal their enmity. These gentlemen opposite believe in unionism, providing unionism is content to put in its sheath the only weapon that is effective. They believe in unionism, provided it does not assert itself. Provided that unionism does not exercise its power, it is a good thing. They counsel unionism not to use political means. But the unionist must not break the law. What is the law? It is the opinion of those who control the political machine. What does this mean? It means, if unionists are denied the right to combine for political purposes, that a very large proportion of the people of this country are unable to express themselves at all, because these gentlemen arrogate to themselves the sole right to occupy the Treasury bench. And they will grant unionism nothing it does not compel them to grant; During the centuries of the past, they have been perfectly content to divide amongst themselves; the spoils of office, but when the hewers of wood and drawers of water organized and became a force, they joined together in order to make common cause against the common enemy. Why are they opposed to political unionism ? I will tell honorable members. It is because political unionism is effective unionism. I ask my friends in this country, who yet believe that political unionism is not as effective as industrial unionism alone, to note most carefully that, although some of the gentlemen opposite profess to believe in industrial unionism, some up to this point, and some to another, and some without reservation, the one thing upon which they are all agreed is to condemn political unionism. Why ? It is because they fear it. Political unionism means their extinction. It means that between unionists and the holy of holies there stands nothing but the determination of the people themselves and the realization of their strength.
My honorable friends on the other side have denounced political unionism, but what are they going to do to check it? Nothing. Though they denounce political unionism, and fear it, they have not the courage to attack it. It is a two-edged sword without a handle. They cannot catch hold of it, and they cannot use it. The Attorney-General and the Minister of Trade and Customs quoted quite a number of extracts from newspapers and books more or less remotely irrelevant to the subject under discussion. I cannot follow them, but I do not propose for a moment to allow them to persuade the people of this country that their attack upon preference to unionists is to be taken seriously. They are opposed to it, they fear it, but they fear it too much to attack it.
It is to their fears, rather than to their sense of justice, that we owe this immunity. It is true that the honorable gentleman at the head of the Government may feel some embarrassment in this matter. God knows, the human mind is a singularly complex thing, and his circumstances may even embarrass the honorable gentleman. He is a unionist himself. He may feel some embarrassment in taking part in butchering unionism. One never knows. There are depths to which the worst of men object to descend.
But however this may be, the point is that the measure now before this House is a measure on which they have elected to go to the country. It is the measure upon which they must stand or fall. It is the measure by which they will be gibbeted from one end of the country to the other. It is a measure which betrays at once the hollowness of their pretentions and their lack of courage. It exposes every one of their pledges, as it were, in the pillory, that decent men and women may cast their objurgations and curses upon them. Here is a Government who declare that preference to unionists is a danger and a menace to liberty, yet dare not touch it !
We are told that the Public Service ought to be free to all without distinction of class or creed, and that public money ought not to be spent except in such a way as to secure the best men. The Minister of Trade and Customs said that one of the objections to preference to unionists was that it prevented the Commonwealth from getting the best men. I deny that most emphatically. It prevents the Commonwealth from getting the cheapest men very likely, but that it prevents the Commonwealth from getting the best men I call upon the AttorneyGeneral to deny. The honorable gentleman has admitted that the best men are always members of the unions.
– I do not admit any such thing.
S. - Of course the best men are in the unions.
– I made no such admission.
S. - The honorable gentleman says he did not make the admission; I did not suppose he would, but I heard him say something suspiciously like it. Calm reflection has, no doubt, enabled the honorable gentleman to modify his opinion, but even if the honorable gentleman did not make that statement, I will make it for him, and I challenge him to deny it. It is the experience of all those who have to employ labour that the best men are in the unions. When we are told that preference to unionists is objectionable because it does not enable the Commonwealth to get the best men, I say that that is not in accordance with experience. But this matter has no relevance to the question before the House. The proposal prohibits the granting of preference to any employe of the Commonwealth on account of his being a unionist. Let me explain what is the law and practice at the present time in regard to this matter. The law is silent. The Government can employ unionists or non-unionists. They can give preference, or can decline to give preference, to unionists. That is the position. The practice, as initiated by the Fisher Government, was -to give preference to unionists under conditions which are set out in the answers to a series of questions put by Air. Deakin to the present Leader of the Opposition, who .was then Prime Minister. These will be found at page 634 of Hansard for 26th September, 1911. Mr. Deakin sought, in his questions^ for information in regard to the whole matter, and, shortly, the substance of the questions and answers may be thus reduced to coherent form. Mr. Deakin was informed that, other qualifications being equal, preference would be given, in all cases, to unionists. Qualifications, such as ability, experience, and physical condition, would be considered. No Commonwealth law existed in regard to preference to unionists for permanent employes. As regards who was to determine the fittest, Mr. Deakin was informed that the officer charged with the duty of selection would do so. He was also informed that non-union ists appointed on the ground of greater qualifications or capacity would not be liable to be suspended or displaced in favour of unionists applying for appointment. Those were the principles on which the Fisher “Government acted, and I appeal to every member of this House and to the people of the country to say if any exception can be taken to them. Our action was reasonable, fair, practicable, and proper. Upon those principles the Fisher Government acted . It was a preference sanctioned by law in regard to the employes of private persons.
I come now to the broad, general question of preference. My honorable friend opposite spoke about preference as if he were in some doubt as to whether it should be granted or not. Just a word as to the history of preference in this country. In 1904 a Bill was introduced by the Deakin Government providing for preference. It provided practically for unqualified preference. It was subsequently modified by Mr. Deakin, as the result of the defeat of the Watson Government. Preference was then confined to unions that did not use their money for political purposes. The honorable member for Darling Downs was one of those who voted against that proposal-
– He denies that.
S.- I do not say that it is a matter of very great importance, but there it is. The President of the Arbitration Court was at his discretion to grant preference, or to withhold it. The law remained in that form till 1910, when the political qualification was omitted, and it was subsequently amended so that practically preference rested at the discretion of the President. That is the present law. Under that law - and it has existed practically in its present form for three years, and in its qualified form for nine years - the Judge was empowered to grant preference to every union which asked for it, and which he thought deserved it. He has granted preference to one only. I submit that there can be no better way of testing a law than by showing, as a matter of fact, how it has operated. We have the fact that, in nine years, the principle on which these gentlemen opposite have lavished all their eloquence and vehement criticism has been enforced only once. The discretion rests in the hands of a man wise, and keenly alive to circumstances. In nine years, he has never exercised the power vested in him unwisely or rashly; rather, on the other hand, has he hesitated to do what he might rightly have done. He has put the law into force once, and that was in connexion with the Brisbane strike. The only occasion on which preference has been granted under any Federal law was that to the Brisbane Tramway employes, and not one member of this union has remained to enjoy it. The Brisbane Tramway Company’s employe’s are a living proof of the readiness with which employers defy the law when it does not suit them. We hear great panegyrics about the law, and the necessity of bowing the knee to the law; custom and precedent are thrown in our faces in this House, and we are adjured to respect authority, but the employers, like the Government, when it suits them, respect nothing. The Brisbane Tramway Company dismissed every one of their hands. The men were awarded preference; they have no employment. So for nine years, in fact, this law has done no man harm. No employer, no citizen, not one human being, has been affected by this law. Yet we hear from one end of the country to the other the honorable member for Parramatta screaming about preference to unionists like - well, like what?
– A tin whistle.
S. - It reminds me not a little of a duck-billed platypus. I leave it at that. My honorable friend went to the country denouncing preference to unionists. Preference has, in fact, never been enforced in Australia under the Commonwealth Act, never been enjoyed by one human being. How, then, could any human being be the worse for it? I want to strip every pretext from these honorable gentlemen, and show the naked thing beneath, to let the people see their hollowness and the rottenness of their proposals. They denounce preference to unionists; it has never been enforced; it has never taken effect. They denounce political unionism; yet they dare not touch it. Why do they not attack it if preference be, as they say, a menace and a danger? Here is the law - the Arbitration (Public Service) Act. Why do not our honorable friends bring in a short Bill repealing that Act? Here is the Commonwealth Conciliation and
Arbitration Act. Why do they not bring in a Bill repealing that Act? Let us go to the country on these things. Then, indeed, the people would have some substance, not a miserable shadow, impalpable, vanishing as we approach, which will not permit us to grasp it. They tell us that preference to unionists is a danger, that political unionism saps the vitality of the nation; and they give us this measure, which has no relation to political unionism at all. They say that industrial unionism is a menace, and they give us this measure, which affects only 12,000 men, and every one of them they propose to remove from the scope of its operations. This is a bold, courageous policy if you like! Why are they doing it? They are doing it for two reasons. First, because they had not the courage to act otherwise ; and, second, because they are compelled to make some show, to persuade the people that they are desperately in earnest, and desperately courageous men. They propose to send this measure up to the Senate, in order that it may be rejected. Why? The Senate has, in its time, accepted a dozen such measures in the afternoon. What human being could a measure like this hurt?
– It will not hurt anybody.
S . - What human being would be the better for it? I do not deny that the intention is venomous. But why this miserable pretence? The Government can do this thing, not in six months’ time, not after a double dissolution, but to-morrow morning. Let them summon a meeting of the Executive Council. Let the Attorney-General write a minute that in future no preference to unionists shall be granted to persons employed in the Commonwealth.
– We have done it.
S. - Well, well, well, did’um, did’um, did’um ! In the history of great political achievements, was there ever an achievement fit to rank on a par with this one? They have done it, and yet they bring in this measure. They have abolished preference to unionists in the Commonwealth service. In the name of God, then, what is this thing - a shadow of a shadow. It has now not even that semblance of a foundation which it had when the minute of the ex-Prime Minister existed. The Government have
Already done that- which they say this Rill is to give them power to do. Are we going to the electors, are we going to drag the Senate to the electors, and ask them to give us power to do something that these honorable gentlemen say they have already done? Why, sir, there are limits even to the idiocy of the human mind ; and I truly am at a loss to understand how honorable gentlemen can have introduced such a measure as this. I feel perfectly satisfied that honorable members who sit behind the Government had no conception of the scope of this measure. They imagined it really dealt a substantial blow at preference to unionists. I should be the last to complain if the Government had done that, because they have every right to assert a principle in which they believe, or to denounce one in which they do not believe. But this is not a principle ; it is a pretext, is less than nothing.
The Attorney-General has treated us to a dissertation about unionism. He believes in unionists combining. He thinks it is a very proper thing for them to do that. They can do all that they are able to do. They must not break the law, they must not use force, and, of course, they must not expect the mantle of the law to be thrown over their shoulders; whatever they can get otherwise, well and good. There are only two ways in which a unionist can achieve any advantage, and both of them have, in fact, so far as the non-unionist is concerned, the same effect. A unionist can only enjoy an advantage at the expense of a non-unionist by getting something which the latter would otherwise have got. How does it matter to a non-unionist that his bread and butter is taken away from him by unionists acting without the sanction of the law; how does it sweeten his sorrow; how does it help him the better to bear his privations? When the Prime Minister was a miner and an active unionist, I have no doubt that he took part in several strikes and resisted the non-unionist coming to take his work. No doubt, the non-unionist did not feel that any sweeter because there was no law at the back of the honorable member. If a man robs me, I do not mind whether he robs me under the sanction of the law or not. The fact is that he robs me, and’ there is an end of it. If a man stops me from getting my living, I do not care whether he stops me under the aegis of the law; it is sufficient if he stops me. If unionism is bad, it does not become any better because you throw the mantle of the law over it, nor does it become any worse. But if unionism is of that kind that the mantle of the law may not be thrown over its shoulder, it is something for which civilization has no room; it ought to be put out. There is nothing in a civilized society which the law ought to permit if it does not approve. There is nothing it ought to permit if it does not believe it to be good and for the welfare of society. Therefore, if unionism is to be permitted at all it ought to be recognised by law. The unionist ought to have his privileges and his rights sanctioned and defined by law, or he ought not to be allowed to have any privileges and rights at all. What the Attorney-General says is that unionism is to have what it can get by force, and by force is to hold if. That is what he says. But when force is attempted, how does my honorable friend act? This honorable gentleman who now says, “ They can get what they can get, and hold what they can hold “ - when they tried to get what they could get, and hold what they could hold, what did he do? He flew to the Legislature, passed his Coercion Act, and crushed them out of existence. That is how he acted. 0 There is his law. Always against the unionist, and never for him.
The idea of this gentleman speaking about law and denouncing the unionist. He speaks law. Why he is a member of an organization which daily defies the law, which has trampled out of existence a law passed in this State for the protection and benefit of the people of this country. There is a law in Victoria which provides for the amalgamation of the two branches of the profession, to one of which I belong. Under that law a man in this State is both a barrister and a solicitor, and is permitted to practise either branch of his profession. This law was passed in order that litigants might avail themselves of the services of a lawyer without having first to go to a solicitor. In short, it is a law which was enacted for the benefit of the people: How does my honorable friend treat it? Why, he, who speaks of freedom and the right of any man to earn his daily bread, will crush out any man who does what the law of Victoria permits him to do. I am a unionist, and I am an official of a powerful union in this country. I have seen what unionism can do, and I say that the greatest thing ever attempted is but as dust compared with granite rock alongside the boycott and the defiance of the law by the Attorney-General. He is the Leader of the Bar in this State, quite apart from the position which he occupies at present. He is the leader of that section of the profession which will not consort with a mere solicitor - this gentleman who declares that all men ought to be free to gather fruit in Eden. His opportunities to get his living ought not to be curtailed by other men. He should be able to put out his hand and gather the ripe fruit. That is the picture which my honorable friend paints. But behind every tree in his Eden there lurks a Satan, and when an unfortunate man has put out his hand once he will never hold it out again. The honorable gentleman’s association wields a more effective boycott than any trade union in Australia. I say that without any hesitation. I do not wish honorable members to run away with the idea that I am objecting to it. I am not going to sail under any false colours at ail. I believe in preference to unionists. I merely say that it does not become the honorable gentleman to denounce unionists and preference. He claims, and enjoys, not only the preference which the law extends to him, but the preference which the law has denied him. I do not wish any person in this country to think that in anything I have said about the honorable gentleman’s profession I am speaking beyond the card, because I am not. There are men who have been, and are now, in this House, and on his side of it, with whom the Attorney-General will not associate himself professionally at all. Let him deny that.
Before any man in the community can become a member of the honorable member’s profession, he must qualify himself. He must pass an examination. In short, he must do what the Leader of the Opposition said - he must serve his time just as any artisan has to serve his time. Neither more nor less. The honorable member for Dalley represents an organization whose branches extend to the four corners of the earth, and its members have to serve about as long - perhaps a little longer - than do those who qualify for the Attorney-General’s profession. But when they have become members of that organization the mantle of the law is not thrown over their shoulders as it is thrown over the shoulders of my honorable friend. They have toget what they are able to get. If they get preference, they “get it by spending their money for political purposes, or by resorting to force and defying the law. That is the hard alternativeto which they are reduced. The honorable member for Flinders does not spend his money. Although he defies the law, the law still smiles sweetly on him.
Just one word more about thequestion of arbitration and strikes. The honorable gentleman said that the time was not ripe for the abolition of strikes. I am sure that if Mr. Esson were here to-night, he would say that itwas by a most happy chance that heheard those words falling from the lips of my honorable friend - “ The time is not yet ripe.” Never since the world began was there a more apposite remark than that in connexion with this Government.. The time is never ripe for them. Why do they not send up a measure to the- Senate which reflects the statements which they made to the electors at the last election? Why” do they not say, “ We are opposed to political unionism, and opposed to preference to unionists ‘ ‘ ? The time is not yet ripe. Why do not they treat the private employer fairly? The time is not yet ripe. They intend to abolish preference to unionists, because they say it does not give the Commonwealth the chance to get the best men. But they propose to allow the private employer to be submerged under this principle, which does not give them the chance to get the services of the best men. The private employers, the poor, unfortunate gentlemen whom they are here to represent, are to linger still in an inferno, whilst these gentlemen fight the sham fight up above, because the time isnot yet ripe. The time will never be ripe for reform with a Government of this kind.
Here is an opportunity. The time is ripe, and rotten ripe, for the people to be called upon to express an opinion in regard to this matter. When the Government denounce preference to unionists, it is conclusive proof either that they are unaware of the tendency of modern civilization, or that they wilfully shut their eyes to that which passes before the vision of every adult man and woman in the community. Every step in the evolution of mankind has been in the direction of organization and superorganization. What are the great forces which govern society to-day? In every department of production and distribution are there not combines of one sort and another that demand preference? Do they not insist upon it? Is there an organization of any sort that does not put in a plea for preference, and which, if strong enough, does not get it? I have not once, but half-a-dozen times, attended conferences with employers when they have made it a part of the agreement into which we entered that we would decline to work for non-union employers. I have signed such agreements on behalf of the union with which I am associated. Everybody who knows what employers are, what human nature is, knows that that is the very thing upon which they do insist. What is more, they declare amongst themselves that any person doing business with a non-union employer shall be boycotted. Here is one instance out of a hundred which I might give in proof of my assertion. It will be found upon page 951 of Hansard of 29th September, 1911. It has reference to the General Carters and Contractors Association of Melbourne. The agreement sets out that -
Members mustgive 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.
In short, the employers stand by preference just as the employes stand by it. Every organization stands by preference, and insists upon it, when it is able to do so. Preference is the natural and inevitable corollary of organization. It is universal in its application, and I say that the Commonwealth, in regard to its own employes, has as much right to consider a principle of this sort as it has to consider the question of a White Australia or of Protection.
Let me now say a word as to why the Government should employ unionists rather than non-unionists. I will give two reasons. The first is that the most effective way of preserving industrial peace is to employ unionists rather than non-unionists. The second is that unionism having been sanctioned and recognised by law, it ought to be encouraged, and the State ought to stand out as the model employer. It ought to pay the best wages, and ought to encourage the employment of the best men. Not only that, but I say that the community recognises the principle of preference to unionists, and, having recognised it, has approved it. I will prove my statement. The Labour party has put preference to unionists before the country for years. We have never shrunk from that task. We have advocated preference in season and out of season, and when we were returned to this Parliament with an overwhelming majority behind us, we had the mandate of the people to enforce it.
– And to use public money for the purpose ?
S. - Yes. We had the mandate of the people to enforce it. The people gave us their mandate to enforce the policy of a White Australia. Yet the public would save a lot of money if they employed coloured instead of white labour. What is more, they did employ coloured labour until we entered this Parliament. Further, I will pin the AttorneyGeneral more firmly to the wall by asking him why Protection is the law of the land. Will the honorable gentleman say that the community has not given us a mandate to purchase Australian goods rather than foreign goods, although the foreign goods may be cheaper ?
– Have my honorable friends ever had a mandate to use public money to reward their own supporters ?
S. - The community recognises that there are other things to be considered besides mere money, and is prepared to pay for them. One of these things, for example, is white-grown sugar. We pay heavily for that. We pay heavily also, if you like, for Protection; but we pay for it because we haveconsidered the whole question, and believe it to be well worth paying for. We are paying for white labour too, and it would be abad day’s work for us when we considered the money aspect of a question of that sort.
There is the -matter, and there I shall leave it. Shortly put, the position is this: The Government have denounced preference to unionists, and, in particular, preference to unionists from the political side. They have denounced this in season and out of season. They have been in office five months, and have made no effort to deal with this matter. They have now introduced a measure that deals ostensibly with employes in the Government service. It can deal only with temporary employes, and, accepting the computation of my honorable friend, there are 12,000 of these. According to the statement made by the Prime Minister, all these will be displaced from their positions as Government employes, and will be taken over by private contractors. That being so, preference to those persons will still be continued, although they will be no longer Government employes. The Attorney-General spoke of the use of public moneys. I want to ram home the point that the private contractor will have to pay trade union rates, that he will have to acknowledge the principle of preference to unionists, and that he will pay the wages which preference to unionists involve. The public moneys, therefore, will be well looked after in the hands of the private contractor. He will see to that; so that this flimsy pretext, which the honorable gentleman has tried to advance as a reason for the action of the Government - the last shred upon which he relies - has been torn away. This measure stands condemned from every stand-point. It does not do what it professes to do. Even if it did, it would not do anything at all in this great struggle of unionism versus non-unionism. We are here arrayed on the side of unionism, and honorable members on the Government side, say what they will, are the enemies of unionism. They dare not avow it plainly, but they stand there, the enemies of unionism; and I ask for no better vantage ground than that they shall say, “ On this question of unionism or non-unionism, and this alone, we shall go to the country.” Let it be so, and we shall see who will win.
.- Before coming to the subject-matter of this debate, let me compliment the honorable member for West Sydney on having tickled very effectively the ears of every honorable member of his party. David Garrick, with all his glittering brilliancy, would not have been in it with him as a jingler of the English language. This is a question upon which the two parties in this House stand divided. The whole of the members on the Government side of the House are definitely opposed to the application of the principle of preference to unionists in the Public Service of this nation. What is the design of Labour in regard to the principle of preference to unionists? In my judgment, it is the very top rung of Labour’s political ladder. By design, it is for them a short cut to the Treasury bench and to their permanent entrenchment there. It is well, perhaps, that we should try to obtain a definite interpretation of the term “ unionist.” Who is a unionist to-day?
s. - Employers like the honorable member are unionists.
– I am referring to those who are approved unionists in the eyes of Labour. I listened intently to the debate on the Address-in-Reply in this Chamber, and was particularly struck by the earnestness and the candour of the honorable member for Fawkner. He spoke as a unionist, and was well qualified to do so. As a member of the Trades Hall Council of this State, he has been associated for very many years with the political movements of Labour. He knows its ins and outs, and has come but recently from the highest position in the Trades Hall Council to occupy a seat in this House. The honorable member left in my mind, unqualifiedly, the impression that to-day there is no difference, in the eyes of Labour, between the industrial unionist approved by them and the political Labourite. They are one and the same person. Let us come to Labour’s own interpretation of the term. The Political Labour Council of Victoria controls the Labour movement in this State, and article 1a of its constitution provides that -
Membership shall consist of members of trade unions and of persons enrolled as members of the organization, said members to be pledged to uphold the constitution, platform, and pledges of the organization.
In the same constitution it is provided that; -
AH members and intending members of branches must sign the platform, pledge, and constitution of the Political Labour Council.
It is further provided that -
No person shall be admitted as a member unless he or she is a member of his or her respective union which is affiliated with a recognised Trades and Labour Council, provided that such person is eligible to join such affiliated union ; provided further that any person who is a member of a trade union not affiliated with a Trades and Labour Council may apply to be admitted as a member of the Political Labour Council.
Then we have the rule that -
No union shall be eligible for affiliation with the Political Labour Council unless such union is affiliated with a recognised Trades and Labour Council.
During debates on industrial matters in this House several honorable members have rather trimmed on the question of the position of the industrial unionist and the political Labourite. It is within the recollection of honorable members that a union not affiiliated with the Political Labour Council recently sought from the parliamentary Labour party recognition of their union for industrial purposes, and that recognition was denied. We are, therefore, brought definitely down to the point - whether the political Labourite will admit it or not - that today, in the eyes of Labour, the industrial unionist approved by Labour and the political Labourite are one and the same. Let us look at the system .in operation. Labour says, in effect, to the unionists or the workers who promise to support them, “ Support the Political Labour Council, and we will make the Public Service of the Commonwealth a special preserve for your employment.” Whom does the Public Service of this country embrace? We have in it professional men, the Army and Navy, artisans and skilled and unskilled workmen. Are we, then, to ask the whole of the Public Service to bend the knee to, and to adopt the political doctrines of, the political Labour party, in order to obtain employment in the Service? Honorable members of the Opposition might well be candid in this matter, and say straight out that the aim of their party is to compel every member of the Public Service to support them in politics. If we have arrived at such a stage in the development of the Public Service of the nation that we are prepared to ingraft so pernicious a principle upon the legislation of this country, then, why not hand over the whole continent to Labour, both in and out of politics ? .
– You will have it handed over before you know.
S. - Not at all. I ask any honorable member of the Opposition to point out to me any Labour platform, either State or Federal, that contains the plank of preference to unionists. Where is such -a plank to be found in the platform of the party? I have looked diligently and carefully through the platform, but have failed to find this principle embodied in it. We have but recently fought an election campaign, and I took great care, whilst that campaign was in progress, to come as closely in touch with the community as I could. During my short life I have set up a condition of living in which, I am pleased to be able to say, I come into close and intimate contact with all sections of the community. That being so, I have many opportunities to discuss the political situation with those who are opposed to me politically, and who do not vote with me. I have discussed honestly, fairly, and candidly, with them the planks m the platforms of both parties, and it is within my own knowledge that many who support our opponents in politics are diametrically opposed to the principle of preference to unionists; that they do not wish for it, and do not recognise it or find it embodied in the platform of the party. Who sets up the Public Service of Australia, and what is it? The Public Service has been established in order to provide public utilities common to the welfare of the whole of the people. That Service is based, and exists, upon taxation levied upon the people. Workers, and all sections of the community alike, contribute to it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that he is getting no value from the Service?
S.- I do not suggest anything of the kind. What I suggest is that every adult in Australia contributes his or her quota, either directly or indirectly, to the Public Service, and I want to know, then, whether the Opposition claim that a big proportion of the people of Australia, who do not believe in the doctrines of their party, and do not subscribe to the principle of preference to unionists, should continue to provide money for the Public Service, so that it may be a special preserve for their followers, and subsidize Labour in politics, in order that effect may be given to their doctrines.
– The honorable member might say the same about the education systems of the different States.
S.- There is no analogy between the two.
– It has had the effect of sending us to Parliament.
S.- That may be. The prominent feature of the Labour party’s advocacy of the principle of preference to unionists is that they have the conviction that it is the short cut to the Treasury bench, and to their permanent entrenchment there.
– Never mind the Treasury bench; we are here just now.
S.- And honorable members opposite seem to occupy their present position with a great deal of discomfort. At any rate, honorable members opposite seem very anxious to return to this side. We have had several definitions of the doctrine of preference. There has been, what I may call without disrespect, the O’Malley doctrine of absolute preference, and we have had that of the Leader of the Opposition, whose idea is preference, “ other things being equal.” I have not, however, heard any interpretation of those words, “ other things being equal;” and I ask whether anybody can say there is any sincerity in them ? When we find two men eligible for the Public Service, in connexion with whom all things are equal-
– Suppose there is a man with one leg and another man with two legs!
S. - That is a different matter; we are now talking of efficiency. I can see nothing in preference except an attempt to secure a legalized means of compelling public servants to vote for Labour.
– How can a man be compelled to vote in a certain way?
S.- A long step is taken towards it when a man is placed under pledge to vote. In all honesty and sincerity - because this is a matter on which there should be no misrepresentation, but as much elucidation as possible - I ask what is meant by the article in the constitution of the Labour party which provides that the members shall be pledged to support the platform of the party. I am quite aware that it is impossible to mark a man’s ballot-paper for him, but, as I say, you go a long way to compelling him to vote in a certain direction if you tell him that if he does not do so he shall not have a place in the Public
Service. If that is not playing the political game “ low dowD,” I do not know what is.
– I have never seen that; it is only a candidate who pledges himself to vote for the party. I will show the honorable member an Australian Workers Union ticket to-morrow morning, and he will find on it nothing in the shape of a pledge to vote for Labour.
S.- Then what is the interpretation of the rule that all members, and intending members, of branches must sign the platform, pledge, and constitution of the Political Labour Council?
– That has reference to the Political Labour League.
S.- With which are affiliated all trade unions.
– That is where the honorable member is entirely wrong.
S.- Of course, I am open to correction; but I understand that before a person can join the Political Labour Council, the union to which he belongs has to become affiliated with that council.
– There is no compulsion to come into the Political Labour party.
S.- I know; but if preference is desired it is asked that the unions shall become affiliated with the movement.
– What the honorable member does not seem to understand is that there are tens of thousands of unionists who are not in the Political Labour party.
S. - I know; and I am also aware that there are many unionists who would not touch the Labour movement with a forty-foot pole.
S. - Is there not a Labour union in this State known as the Liberal Workers Union?
– Does the honorable member call that a union ?
n. - It is an employers’ union, subsidized by the employers.
– The honorable member’s charge falls to the ground when he says that there are many unionists who would not touch the Labour movement with some kind of pole.
S. - And these are the men whom the Labour party will not recognise in connexion with the Public Service, and whom the Labour Government refuse to recognise so as to give them the advantage of the laws of the country. There is a plank in the State Labour platform about which I am much concerned, and I think it just as well to have it placed on record in Hansard. That plank is “ Equality of opportunity; the right to work.” How do honorable members opposite reconcile that plank with the doctrine of preference?
– That is easy!
S. - I hope that some honorable member opposite, and I particularly call on the honorable member for Adelaide, will be able to explain this matter.
– If the honorable member will guarantee me that he has an open mind, I shall explain it to him.
S.- I may say that I came into this Chamber with a comparatively open mind.
– The honorable member soon shut it up when he got inside the Chamber !
t. - The honorable member wants an open mind very badly!
– The honorable members who are interjecting call for a masterly rebuke from me, but I do not wish to administer it.
– The honorable member can say what he likes to me !
S.- This is a question on which we hold diametrically opposite opinions, and I am not one who desires to see acrimony in this Chamber. If the honorable member for Adelaide can convince me that the principle of preference is a right principle, morally and politically, I shall subscribe to it. The Bill opens up the general principle of preference, and affords an opportunity to enter thoroughly into the industrial situation. That, however, I do not wish to do. Beyond saying, as I have said on the platform, that I take no exception whatever to either industrial or political unionism. I recognise that we, on our side, come together in order to improve our political conditions, and the conditions of our supporters, and I am prepared to concede the same right to our opponents. At the same time, I must say emphatically that I am opposed to very many of the economic and social doctrines advanced by honorable members opposite.
– Did the honorable member speak of improving the conditions of his supporters?
S.- I spoke of improving the conditions of our supporters, along with those of the whole of the taxpayers of the country. The honorable member for West Sydney expressed the opinion that there was no substance in the Bill, but I contend that the principle, even if it affects only half-a-dozen people, is a vital one; and I hope that the House will determine that, in the Public Service, there shall be equality of opportunity for all, and preference to none.
.- We have listened with some degree of interest to the speeches of the Attorney-General and the ex- Attorney-General ; and, in my opinion, the remarks of the latter practically annihilated the position of the Government. We have had an admission that the principle of no preference is already in operation; and yet, although we are told important business remains to be done in the short time at our disposal, we have this Bill introduced. Further astonishment is created by the suggestion that this is to be a great test issue in the double dissolution which the Government say they desire. But it is peculiar to go to the people for authority for something that has already been done. It is a new method to adopt a law by regulation before introducing a Bill; anc! perhaps, we have not yet quite realized the value of such a method. The Minister of Trade and Customs is very innocent in his idea that this Bill, if passed, will make a change in the practical working of unionism. The only effect will be to set up an inequality under the existing law in the matter of disputes which arise when men refuse to work with non-unionists. In such cases, the employes in the Commonwealth are to be denied the right to appeal to the Court for settlement. A tribunal has been set up by this Parliament for the settlement of industrial disputes and the maintenance of industrial peace; and yet it is proposed by Act of Parliament to prevent that tribunal from promoting industrial peace ; in short, this is a measure calculated to promote industrial warfare, and perpetrate injustice on a number of citizens.
It seems to me extraordinary for the Government to adopt such an attitude. I do not intend to repeat the arguments, so clinching in their effect, of the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for West Sydney. They have torn the Bill to pieces, and shown it is not needed. I wish to reply to one or two points raised by the Attorney-General in introducing the measure. He covered a big field. He went back to the days of the guilds, and wished to know why the unionists did not take up some of the good work done by those guilds. We do not ask for the power those guilds had; because men were compelled by Act of Parliament, under penalty of imprisonment, to join the guilds; but, though the guilds certainly did splendid work, I wish to make one or two quotations, by way of reply to the Attorney-General, as to the work the modern trade unions do. The Duke of Argyll, in the Reign of Law, says-
The mere founding, for example, of a voluntary society for any given purpose evolves out of the primary elements of human character a latent force of the most powerful kind, namely, the motives, the sentiment, the feeling, the passion, as it often is, of the spirit of association.
Fothergill Robinson, in the Spirit of Association, says -
It has been a pathfinder to the Legislature. It has built up systems of assurance which have received legislative sanction, and are now being absorbed and developed into a State scheme. It has befriended the arts, literature, science, medicine,and has rendered untold services to education. In all its expressions, from the vast federations of trade unions to the smallest gatherings of knots of enthusiasts assembled for some altruistic purpose, it has had an unmeasurable influence upon our national destiny.
We shall see that by its means character has been trained and raised, a religious spirit has been manifested, discipline has been enforced, and also that the various forms of association in England have served as schools of citizenship.
In these quotations, there is a complete answer to the Attorney-General in regard to the value of trade unions, because today they have behind them that same spirit ; they discipline men and make them better men. The Attorney-General inferred that trade unions have ceased to do what some of the guilds did, and that they have ceased to see that there is efficiency in their membership; but any one in touch with the trade unions of to-day knows that he is wrong. The trade unions, particularly in the Sheffield trades, and in their allied branches in Australia, do not admit members unless they are efficient tradesmen. In regard to the apprenticeship question, the trade unions are fighting for more efficient tradesmen, while the class who vote for the present Government are those who fight against it. They seek to have an unlimited number of apprentices, and to turn out the greater part of their work by apprentices, and thus not have apprentices trained properly. We recognise that the apprenticeship question is a difficult problem since the introduction of machinery. In fact, there has been a big change that has brought about the conditions of the modern trade unions, and sharper lines of conflict, as contrasted with the old guilds. Fothergill Robinson says, speaking of the change of things -
The new belief which gained acceptance was that the freedom of each man to pursue his own individual interests was the surest of guarantees of national prosperity and well-being. The followers of this faith, however, failed to reckon with certain weaknesses of unregenerate human nature . The fact that the equitable distribution of wealth was infinitely more important for the true welfare of the nation than its rapid acquisition was not realized.
To-day, the Labour party stand for the more equitable distribution of wealth, for a higher standard of comfort for all, and for the abolition of all low-down conditions. We are only at the dawn of such things; but our aim in this direction is higher than the question of the individual doing what he likes. Fothergill Robinson further says -
The ethical standard of the age was utterly unequal to support the strain which was cast upon it when machinery rendered the accumulation of Urge fortunes a new possibility. The national conscience slept while horrors and iniquities were perpetrated, which were perhaps unsurpassed in the history of industry in any country.
The struggle is not over, by any means. It is interesting to find the representatives of the class largely governed by the Employers Federation admitting the importance and value of trade unionism by the introduction of a Bill which is one step in the direction of striking a blow at that very institution in our national life that makes for the improvement of individuals and the betterment of society. I ask leave to continue my speech on some future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 November 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131112_reps_5_71/>.