5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That for the remainder of the session the Standing Committees have leave to sit during the sitting of the House.
– Can the Prime Minister say when he intends to launch the Public Works Committee on the sea of trouble?
– I hope soon.
Mr.TUDOR.- The following cablegram appears in to-day’s newspaper. It is. headed -
Exporters of Canadian lumber assert that the reason United States exporters displace them in the markets of Australia-
– The honorable member will not be in order in reading the paragraph.
– The statement is that exporters from America have an advantage over exporters from Canada because they can get backloading in coal, and that the Canadian lumbermen are virtually shut out of this market. As Ministers are supposed to favour preferential trade, will the Minister of Trade and Customs see that something is done to place the Canadian exporters of lumber on as good a footing as the Americans ?
– I have not seen the cablegram, and cannot make any statement, not being aware of the facts, but I promise to look into the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the library all papers and letters in connexion with complaints regarding vaccination made at Newcastle by a man named Maloney?
– In this morning’s Age, there is a short article dealing with the proposed action of the Government regarding the Meat Trust. It contains the statement that Ministers have under consideration the imposition of an export duty on meat. I ask the Prime Minister if there is a grain of truth in that silly suggestion ?
– The Government have under consideration matters relating to export and import, but the imposition of export duties of any kind is not contemplated.
– As the Government propose to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the operations of the Meat Trust in Australia, I ask the Prime Minister whether, having regard to the decision of the Privy Council as to the rights of Royal Commissions to ask questions, it is hoped to thus obtain information of value?
– I believe that we shall acquire a great deal of useful information; otherwise, I would not contemplate the appointment of a Commission. Possibly the Judge could have acquired more information had not the Privy Council given the decision which it has given, but, notwithstanding that decision, the Royal Commissions Act enables reasonable inquiries to be made..
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the library the correspondence between his Government and the Government of Western Australia as to the validity of the powellising patent?
– I should like to consider the matter before committing myself, but as far as I know, there is no objection to doing what the honorable member asks. I shall give a definite answer to-morrow.
– I ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs if steps have been taken to give effect to the special recommendation of the Royal Commission on timbers in connexion with the granting of a contract for Tasmanian sleepers ?
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral if during the last three months the regulation governing guarantees for telephone and telegraph lines has been altered, and whether a new regulation has been made which permits the Department to construct a line without requiring a guarantee]
– No. The Department is willing to bear half the loss on a line, but it expects’ the residents of the district concerned to pay the other half.
– Will the Prime Minister allow a motion, of which I have given notice, for the appointment of a Select Committee to examine the officers and records of the House to ascertain if the third reading of the Loan Bill was carried on the 31st October, to go as unopposed business?
– I am not aware that that is a matter of so much urgency as to require that special facilities shall be given for its discussion. I have not the slightest desire to go hunting in the musty tomes of the past, as the honorable member is a past-master in doing.
– May I have a straight answer, yes or no?
– The answer is no.
– I desire to have the motion removed from the notice-paper.
– Will the Prime Minister expedite the payments due to many men who are small contractors to the various Commonwealth Departments. Some of those contractors have been standing out of their money for mouths, and I would like the Prime Minister to promise to expedite payment, so that poor men may be able to compete for these contracts.
– There is an assumption underlying the question that prompt payment is not being made at the present time, and if the honorable member will furnishme with instances we will take care that all reasonable despatch is shown in making the payments.
– I should like to ask the Attorney-General if the Privy Council has not declared that the present Royal Commissions Acts are invalid ? If so, is there any power under the Constitution to create a Commission with compulsory powers, particularly is there any power to create a Commission with compulsory powers to inquire into the Beef Trust?
– With regard to the first part of the question, the honorable member has no doubt read the judgment, and knows that the effectof it is to declare the two Royal Commissions Acts invalid. In regard to the remainder of the question, it is not the practice, certainly not my practice as Attorney-General, to give opinions on matters of law in reply to questions asked in the House.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs give the House any information in regard to the outbreak of diphtheria at Duntroon, and the steps taken to cope with it?
– The question might more properly be addressed to the Defence Department, but from knowledge in my possession I can inform the honorable member that there is only one case of actual diphtheria at the military college, but about forty carriers were found, who, though not suffering from diphtheria in a malignant form, are carriers of the malady, and might possibly infect other persons. A question arose as to the best means of isolating those carriers, and I have placed the large furnished homestead at Yarralumla, which is at present unutilized, at the disposal of the military authorities, who, I understand, are going to use the house. I think about thirty carriers were removed fromthe hospital at Duntroon the other day, but, if the military authorities desire the use of Yarralumla, the Home Affairs Department will be delighted to place it at their disposal.
Contract Rate for Earthworks
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs in his possession any documentary evidence or proof from any officer in the South Australian Railway Department that the Government of that State are paying 2s. 6d. per yard for the removal of spoil from cuttings’ in which they are paying 4s. 6d. for the cutting itself?
– Yes. The honorable member has hardly put the question fairly, although I know he did not intend to be unfair. We have received a telegram, and also a schedule, I think, from Mr. Moncrieff, Commissioner of Railways in South Australia, showing conclusively that, both for excavations and formation work, the prices paid on the MinippaStreaky Bay railway were higher than those paid to Mr. Teesdale Smith under the contract recently allotted to him.
– In regard to the grievances of the telegraphists at the General Post Office in Brisbane, is the Postmaster-General aware that correspondence which passed between the telegraphists and the Postmaster-General has appeared in the press, and, if so, what action has been taken ?
– I received the correspondence only this morning, and I propose to inquire into it.
– Does not the AttorneyGeneral consider that 30,000 or more electors, speaking through their representatives in this House, are entitled to the fullest information from him, as AttorneyGeneral, regarding any matter of public importance?
– I think they are entitled to the fullest information on any matter relating to the administration of my Department which it is open for me to give. I have said previously, and I say again, that I have never considered it part of the functions of the AttorneyGeneral to advise honorable members generally on matters of law in reply to questions in the House. That practice has never been followed in the House of
Commons. It is the duty of the AttorneyGeneral to advise his colleagues, and, in matters which are brought by the Government before the House, such as Bills, honorable members may well look to him to guide them in matters of law, but not generally in reply to questions.
– Arising out of a dis cussion during last session, and also out of the fact that negotiations have been taking place between France and Great Britain respecting the control of the New Hebrides, I ask the Minister of External Affairs whether the Commonwealth Government have been consulted by the other two Governments, and whether he is now in a position to inform the House of the result of the negotiations?
– The position is that a Conference has been arranged between Great Britain and France, but advices I received, about a fortnight ago, were to the effect that the exact date of the Conference had not been fixed. We may take it that a Conference will take place in regard to the amendments that may be necessary in the Condominium and the administration generally of the island.
– Will the Commonwealth be represented?
– I noticed in the press a statement that Mr. Harcourt, in February last, when replying to a question put to him in the House of Commons, said that it was not intended to invite the Commonwealth to be represented on the Conference, but that we should be consulted before any change was made. That assurance has also been communicated by despatch to the Commonwealth Government. I assume that the Conference will take place shortly, and that no change will be made without prior consultation with the Commonwealth.
– Press reports have appeared to the effect that the Queensland Government have decided to provide a light on Smith’s Rock, Moreton Bay. I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether this decision has been arrived at without consultation with his Department, or with his concurrence ?
– I heard of the proposal for the first time when it was mentioned yesterday by the honorable member. A telegram was despatched yesterday to the Premier of Queensland to ascertain the facts.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether residents of Bendoc have made any payment in connexion with the construction of a telephone line between that township and Dalgety. The Department estimated originally that there would be a loss of £209 per annum on the line. Will the Postmaster-General say whether that line has been constructed without any payment being made by local residents?
– I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– Will the Postmaster-General also place before the House information as to the applications which the honorable member for Kennedy is making for the construction of telephone lines in his own electorate ?
– I shall look into both matters.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral ascertain why in a number of instances residents of the electorate of Kennedy have been called upon to pay certain guarantees in connexion with the construction of telephone lines while no charge has been made in respect of the line from Bendoc to Dalgety?
– Those who enter into a guarantee should be prepared to observe it. It is a mean thing for. people in any district who ask to have a telephone line erected, and give a guarantee against any possible loss, to try to escape from it when they are called upon to bear it.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make inquiries as to who was responsible for the cancellation of the order for the construction of a telephone line from Port Lincoln to Streaky Bay, and also from Port Lincoln to Cowell? The money was provided on the Estimates, tenders were called, and the contract accepted for a lot of the material for the work-
– The honorable member is now going’ beyond the asking of a question.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state who was responsible for the cancellation of that important work ?
– I probably was responsible for it. I shall look into the matter, and ascertain the actual position.
– Is the PostmasterGerieral prepared to lay upon the table of the House a return showing the number of telegraph and telephone lines which have been constructed without any guarantee during the last twelve months ?
– We do not ask for the payment of a guarantee in respect of lines which if is reported are likely to prove payable. I shall look into the question, and if I find that the preparation of such a return will not involve any great difficulty I shall be glad to supply it.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs state whether his Department has yet traced the flock of sheep which it sent some time ago to a station in the Northern Territory?
– The sheep arrived at their destination about three weeks ago, and I can assure the honorable member that the mortality was very low.
– Has your attention been drawn, Mr. Speaker, to a new standing order passed by the House of Commons, under which any honorable member may be named for frowning at the Speaker ?
– It is not in keeping with the reputation of honorable members, or with the dignity of the House, that questions of a frivolous character should be either asked or answered.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence make inquiries into complaints which have been made that at some of our military horse depots men are called upon to work unnecessarily long hours on Sunday, because, seemingly, some superior officer wishes to bring along a friend in the afternoon to inspect the horses? Will he see that this excessive Sunday work is stopped ?
– I shall ask my colleague, the Minister of Defence, to ascertain whether there is any justification for the statement made by the honorable member.
– Is it a fact that the
Government have arranged with the Government of New South Wales that the services of the State police shall be used for the purification of the Commonwealth rolls - that is, that the police shall make a canvass, and strike off the names of persons who are not entitled to enrolment? Will the Prime Minister also give instructions that the police shall put on the rolls the names of those who are not now enrolled, but are entitled to enrolment ?
– I have no such notion regarding the purification of the rolls as dominates the mind of my honorable friend. My idea is that to make a clean roll you must enroll all whose names ought to be recorded, and remove all. names which should not be recorded.
– Will the Prime Minister promise to issue instructions that all names entitled to be on the rolls shall be put on the rolls?
– I will inquire as to what is the practice. I do not know what is the point of the honorable member’s question.
– They are only taking the names off the roll, and not putting them on. That is the information I have received by telegram.
– I can only say again that we will try to put on the roll every name which ought to be there. I cannot say anything more definite.
– I understand that the police are being employed in New South Wales in the compilation of the electoral lists, and I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will see that the police are furnished with claim cards, to be left at theresidence of any person found not to be enrolled ?
– I shall be glad to do anything that is necessary in order that this work may be properly carried out. My own impression is that a card is usually left at a residence in the circumstances stated by my honorable friend.
– No; the police do not take cards with them.
– If we can facilitate the work in any way we shall be glad to do so.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the cleansing of the rolls and the facilities for enrolment. I am informed that in the electorate of Bendigo the police are conducting a canvass, and that they advise those whom they find not to be enrolled that they must go to a post-office to obtain application cards. ‘ Will the Prime Minister give instructions that the police shall be furnished with a supply of claim cards, so that the enrolment of electors may be facilitated ?
– I shall be very glad to make inquiries into the matter, and to ascertain why persons are being sent to post-offices to secure claim cards.
– Will the Prime Minister ask the Electoral Office authorities to compare the names on the rolls in adjoining electorates and in the various States? Since this subject was referred to the other day I have been supplied with names which appear on both the Riverina and the Hume rolls, and one of the names is that of a person who left the Riverina electorate six years ago.
– I shall call the attention of the electoral officers to the matter. I am afraid, however, that even when we have done our best there will always be the element of human error.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of instituting a searching inquiry into the effect of the vaccination that took place during the last small-pox scare in Sydney, so that we may know the number of people who have suffered?
– I think we had better leave the past alone, and congratulate ourselves that this trouble is lessening somewhat. I do not see my way to institute a searching inquiry into the matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to a statement which was sent by telegraph from Western Australia, and which appeared in the Argus this morning, to the effect that Sir John Forrest has expressed his preference for revenue duties as against any increase in income or land taxation? Was the right honorable gentleman echoing the policy of the Government when he indicated that they were going to introduce a revenue Tariff at an early date?
– I only wish to say that the information is absolutely incorrect. The newspaper report was not printed in the way suggested by the honorable member - at any rate, not as I read it - and, in any event, the honorable member misrepresents what I said.
– Now that there is a Navigation Act will the Minister of Trade and Customs communicate with the Union Steam-ship Company, and, with a view to the preservation of human life, point out the desirability of their three boats, now voyaging between the mainland and Tasmania, being fitted with wireless telegraphy?
– Until the Act is proclaimed we have no power over the shipping companies.
– Will the Minister do as I request in order to p reserve human life?
– I shall, of course, take the honorable member’s request into consideration.
.- I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ the operations of the American Beef Trust in Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– Honorable members on this side may congratulate themselves on having awakened the Government to the significance of the operations of the American Beef Trust in Australia. There is no doubt that the criticisms uttered from this side had something to do with directing the Government’s attention to the matter, and evoking the intimation from the Minister of Trade and Customs of what the Government policy is to be.
– That is what honorable members opposite could never do in the case of their own Government!
– The honorable gentleman’s Government is our “ own Government “ at the present time, and it is his duty, and that of his colleagues, to look after the public interests. The public press has left us in no doubt as to the serious position in which our meat supply is placed by this trust. Irrespective of what our opponents may say, we are more than satisfied that the Beef Trust is here, and is operating extensively, and that, in consequence, the people are paying a high price for their meat to-day. This trust will visit every house in the Commonwealth and extort tribute from the tables of the people ; and there is no doubt that it is its intention to batten on Australia as it has on other countries of the world. It is rather refreshing to hear that the Minister of Trade and Customs, even at this late hour, realizes his duty to do something in the interests of the people. Although the suggested Royal Commission is not very likely to be of much benefit at the present time, we have, at least, a guarantee that the Government propose legislation of some description. Whether or not that legislation will prove effective it is, of course, very hard to say ; but, at any rate, it will show the public that this Parliament, on whom the responsibility in such matters rests, is determined to stop these predatory operations. There is no doubt that, owing to the Beef Trust, the Aberdeen works, in New South Wales, which have been in existence for a great number of years, and which depended, to a large extent, on Queensland for the supply of cattle, have been closed down. Be that as it may, Mr. White, the Minister of Agriculture in Queensland, has been telling the people of the northern portion of that State that he is highly delighted with the operations of the trust there - that he is pleased to know that the price of meatis going up.
– What did the honorable member for Maranoa say?
– That honorable member said that the trust is not responsible for the high price of meat, but I hope to be able to prove that it is. When we find a State Government, as represented by their Minister, applauding the operations of the trust, and offering it every assistance in driving out competition, we may imagine that those who form the trust are looking forward to a fairly rosy time. When we have the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland saying that he will be delighted to know that the price of meat in Australia will be higher than now, we can imagine that before long the Commonwealth will be visited by an overplus of unemployment and poverty. I can quote an authority in each capital of the Commonwealth as to the cause of the increase of prices. Mr. Walker, of the Sutton Forest Butchering Company, Sydney, says that the high prices realized at Homebush are due to the fact that no cattle are coming forward from Queensland, which in the past has practically been responsible for the supply of half the meat slaughtered in Australia. It is on account of the shortage in cattle coming south that the. people in the southern States are paying so much for their meat to-day. Mr. Walker, who is one of the most reputable butchers in the Commonwealth, says that he has to pay £15 and £16 per head for cattle which he was buying three or four months ago for £10 and £12. Our opponents tell us that the high prices realized for cattle are due to the increased wages paid to slaughtermen, but Mr. Walker says that these have not interfered with the trade in any way. Mr. Angliss, ofMelbourne, gives a similar opinion. He says that it is impossible to continue the export trade on account of the high price of cattle in Australia and the low price of meat on the London market. I shall be able to prove that the American Beef Trust controls the London meat market as well as the American markets. It controls two-thirds of the meat sent to the London market, and therefore is in a position to control and regulate the prices.
– Is there not a season for freezing in Australia that always ends in June?
– Some of the big companies operate all the year round. Angliss and Company do so as a rule, but now they say that it is impossible to operate on account of the high price of cattle here and the low price on the London market. We have a similar opinion from Mr. Either, of Adelaide, who has been in the business a great many years. When these men say that it is absolutely impossible to continue the export trade, and that the trade is practically ruined, we must come to the conclusion that it is due to the presence of the Beef Trust.
– Mr. Kither did not say so.
– Unfortunately, I have not sufficient time to read the quotations showing Mr.Kither’ s opinion, but he says it is because no cattle are coming from the sister States that the people of Adelaide are paying such high prices for their meat, and we know that the greater portion of the cattle passing through the South Australian cattle yards come from Queensland. Agents tells us that prices are likely to go still higher because there are not sufficient cattle coming forward. They tell us also that the prices are likely to be reduced in the spring, but, in my opinion, instead of the prices being reduced, they are likely to increase, because the Beef Trust, if they have not already bought four of the meat works in Queensland, have made sufficient arrangements to have their cattle treated when they come into the slaughter yards; in the same way that the arrangement was made by the South Australian Government to oblige Armour and Company. The honorable member for Werriwa, in trying to make a case for the Beef Trust, and justify their presence in Australia, showed that the number” of cattle in America had fallen very considerably. He quoted from a publication issued by the Agriculture Bureau in Washington, and he showed that the cattle of the United States had fallen to the extent of about 13,000,000 head in four years; but the same publication shows that dairy cattle have maintained their numbers, also that there is sufficient land in the United States to supply cattle to meet the requirements of the whole of the United States and England, providedthe stock-raiser can get a ready market for his cattle. Our opponents tell us that cattle are bringing excellent prices in the United States, but I can quote figures to show that the price of cattle is not as high as is obtained in Australia, while the price of meat wholesale is about double what it is in Australia. The figures I shall quote first deal with the London market. Our opponents are continually telling us that the high cost of the meat in Australia is brought about by the high price of meat on the London market; but, as a matter of fact, the price in London is not as high as it is in Australia. The prices I shall quote were published in last Monday’s Age, and apply to last Saturday’s sales. In London, on Saturday last, the following prices ruled: - Light lambs, 53/8d. ; fair average quality, 5¼d. ; mutton, 33/8d. to 3½d.; frozen beef fore-quarters, 3¼d.; hind-quarters, 4 3-16d. ; Argentine lambs, 5d. to 53/8d. ; mutton 33/8d. to35/8d. ; Argentine frozen beef, fore-quarters, 3½d. ; hind-quarters, 5¼d. Although Argentine produces half the meat that goes to the London market, it is in the happy position of getting the best prices on that market. New Zealand lambs brought 6¼d. for light, 57/8d. for medium, 5 5-8d. for heavy ; New Zealand mutton brought 4½d. down to 33/8d.; and frozen beef, hindquarters, 4 5-1 6d. ; and fore-quarters, 33/8d. When we compare these prices with those on the American markets, we shall find how anxious our friends are to try to preserve the American markets for their own use and control. I shall quote the wholesale prices in Chicago on the 21st February of this year, about the latest statistics it was possible for me to obtain. I shall read merely half-a-dozen of them to show the high price paid in America for meat, and the low price for cattle. The quotations are from the New York and Chicago National Provisioner of the 21st February, 1914, a cent being equivalent to our halfpenny: -
Prime native steers, 13¼ to 13½ cents, or 65/8d. to 63/4d.
Good native steers, 123/4 to 13¼ cents, or 63/8d. to65/8d.
Native steers, medium, 12¼ to 133/4 cents, or 61/8d. to 63/4d.
Heifers, good, 13 to 13¼ cents, or 6½d. to 65/8d.
Cows, 10½ to 113/4 cents, or 5¼d. to 57/8d.
Hindquarters, choice, 16 cents, or 8d.
Forequarters, choice, 11½ cents, Or 55/8d.
We are told that these people are coming to Australia because of the London meat market, but immediately they secure a monopoly of the Australian trade, prices on the London market will double. It is their intention to keep the London prices low at present, thus creating a gradual rise in the price of cattle in Australia, which will prevent Australian exporters from operating. Then with the supply which they get from the Argentine they will be able to exploit the London market to better advantage. But when they have driven their competitors out of the trade in Australia, prices in London will increase. They have stalls in Smithfield, and shops in many parts of London ; indeed, they have absolute control of the London meat market as well as of the American and Australian markets. They have also practically control of the Berlin market. They have made arrangements to go to Brazil, New Zealand, and South Africa, and if the legislators of the countries in which they propose to operate do not show a keen anxiety to protect the welfare of the people, and control the trust, instead of paying 6d. per lb. as we do here now, they will have to pay1s. 6d.,1s. 8d., and1s.10d. per lb., which are the American prices Having regard to the prices that the trust pays for cattle in America, our friends opposite should be satisfied that legislation to control the trust should be passed as soon as possible. During the week ended 21st February, 1914, cattle sold for£8 25 cents, or about 34s. per cwt. ; pigs from£8 65c, sheep from $5 70c, and lambs from $7 55c. each. The trust does not pay as much in America for cattle as is paid in Australia, but it gets twice as much for meat as is got here. We are told that the trust will have competition to face in Australia, but that is not so, because those in the trade here are few, and comparatively weak financially, and rather than put up a fight, many of them will get out at the earliest opportunity, knowing that they have no chance of successfully opposing the trust. Swift and Company have on the Brisbane River the biggest and the most up-to-date works in the world, and, according to the manager, will be able to treat 1,000 head of cattle and 5,000 head of sheep a day. It is rumoured that they have also secured the Ross River works near Townsville, and the Lakes Creek works near Rockhampton. It is said, too, that they have secured the adjoining property, which was owned by Messrs. J. and R. Scott, and have thus 1000 miles of what is admitted to be the finest cattle country in the Commonwealth. I am not in a position to say positively that these rumours are true, but, judging by the tactics adopted by the trust, I conclude that they have some interest in the works I have named. They have also secured the Alligator Creek works and the Biboohra works. It is admitted by every one in the north, although denied by the Biboohra shareholders, that the Beef Trust has not secured these works. The people in the northern parts of Queensland are not prepared to believe that the trust has not some interest in, and will not have control over, these works. The Burketown boiling-down works have recently been taken over and renovated by some one, a great deal of money having been spent on them; and it is concluded that the Meat Trust - or some one connected with it, probably some of our young law clerks in Brisbane - has allowed capital to drift up there to re-establish these works. We are also ready to think that the trust has more than a controlling interest in the operations of the Union Cold Storage Company thats is about to open works in the Northern Territory. Word was received from Brisbane yesterday that the trust has bought the business of Messrs. Baynes Bros., the biggest butchers in Queensland, who do a wholesale and retail trade. Mr. Baynes has told me on several occasions that he would rather sell to the trust than engage in competition with it. Everything points to Swift and Company having acquired these works. Messrs. Armour and Company had control of the Rosewarnes Meat Works, on the Brisbane River, for a considerable time, and every ounce of meat that left those works bore their brand. They arranged with Birt and Company, on the Brisbane River, to treat cattle whenever they were overstocked at Rosewarnes. That has been admitted by the manager of the works. There is only one works on the Brisbane River which they have not secured. In Sydney, the Colonial Meat Export Company is operating very extensively, and it is the opinion of every person in the meat trade of New South Wales that the American Beef Trust has control of that company. We are told that a firm at Geelong is operating very extensively in live* stock, and exporting every ounce of meat that it can lay hands on. It is the idea of many in the trade that our little legal friends in Brisbane have distributed capital in Victoria, and have given people here ‘carte blanche to act in connexion with shipments of meat. Thus Queensland is well represented by the trust, as is also New South Wales, and we have the South Australian Government acting for it on every conceiv- able occasion, treating cattle for Armour and Company whenever that is necessary or desirable. We have ample evidence that the trust is operating in Australia. Not: withstanding all our opponents may say, there has been a great deal of forward buying. The trust has secured the whole of the cattle that it is possible to get, and that is why we are paying such high prices for meat. It is preventing stock from travelling to the southern States, which cannot export if they cannot get Queensland cattle. During 1912 Queensland possessed 180,000 more beef cattle than all the other States put together: It had a surplus of 137,000 over 1911, but the Commonwealth showed a reduction during the year of 251,000. The figures show that we have gone back, and that the Government should take into consideration the desirability of maintaining our cattle statistics; otherwise, in a year or two no other companies than the Meat Trust will ba able to export, and we shall not be growing enough,, meat for our own people. If the Government is anxious to take action, I would point out that one thing to be done is to preserve the young stock of the dairy farmers, which is now slaughtered. It is useless to tackle this matter unless it is intended to handle it in a practical and thorough manner. I had many figures to submit, but time will not per- ‘ mit me to say more. I hope that the Minister of Trade and Customs will consider the facts that I have laid before him, and will take steps to prevent the people of Australia from suffering. If the trust is allowed to remain in Australia, it will fatten on the tables of the people, and bring about here poverty similar to that which it has caused in America.
– I desire to say only a few words on this matter, with a view to shortening the debate, so that we may get on with the business of the country.
– You could not have mora important business than this.
– No, But’ is it not an extraordinary thing that we havebeen discussing this business for threeweeks ?
– We were discussing your misdeeds in connexion with the Teesdale Smith contract.
– I venture to say that I have heard many allusions to the Beef Trust during the last three weeks. Now, when we desire to do the country’s business, the first proposal from members opposite is to hold up that business, while we discuss again a subject which has been discussed and rediscussed during the past three weeks.
– You know that Mr. Speaker would not allow any discussion on this matter at all.
– I know that after allowing a good deal of latitude, Mr. Speaker had to pull up some members, and then this matter was taken off the business-paper so that it could be discussed on the censure motion. And it vas discussed.
– Did you object?
– No. But I object to this useless proposition at the present time.
– If he is giving you t more light than you .have already, he is doing good work.
– I listened to the honorable member, and I heard not a single new fact brought to light. All he had to say we have heard over and over again.
I remember one point the honorable member made, and that was that the Opposition had driven us to’ do what we have done. Let me say that this so-called trust has been in Australia for two years. The last Minister of Trade and Customs had interviews with people representing this trust. He knew all about it. He had interviews with Mr. Malkow, and I suppose he had interviews with the solicitors of the company.
– The solicitor called to see me once. .
– In fact, everybody connected with this trust who cared to had entrance to the Minister’s office during the whole twelve months before the present Government came on the scene at all.
– Was it the side door or the front door?
– Do trusts come in at the front door ?
– Well, I will have an investigation made in the Customs Department to ascertain whether there is a private door there, and whether these trusts, when they wanted to see the honorable member for Yarra to get his approval of all they were doing, went in at the private, door or the front one. The fact remains that the representatives of the trust discussed, their operations with the ex-Minister.
– They did no such thing.
– The papers show it.
– The papers do not show it.
– The papers show that the officers of the Department discussed these matters with the trust, and acquainted the Minister with all that had taken place. Moreover, everything that was done with this trust was approved by the Minister, and not a word was said then as to the depredations of the trust. It was just as ugly then as it is now, surely. It is just the same trust, and is it not a little late for honorable members to be lashing themselves into a fury?
– Try to be truthful, and tell us what has happened.
– Mr. Speaker, will you call this disorderly member to order ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Kennedy must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I am trying to tell the truth in regard to this matter. Those guffaws having ceased, I repeat that I am trying to give the House the facts, and a little of the history of this matter. I say again that the previous Government took no steps to deal with this matter, and if it was hurting the Commonwealth, as was alleged over and over again, was it not better to take’ steps when the evil was young, and could be nipped in the bud? The honorable member allowed the trust to go for what it was worth ; he tended it, and approved of it, and, as I said yesterday, he gave it his blessing. ^
– I rise on a point of order. Is any honorable member of the House allowed to repeat a statement which he was compelled by the Chair yesterday to withdraw ?
– The Prime Minister certainly will not be in order in repeating a statement which he has been asked to withdraw, as being regarded as offensive by the member to whom it was addressed.
-I withdraw the remark. I will put it in this way : Not one line of any kind can be found in those papers which ‘will show my honorable friend’s disapproval of anything that has been done. On the contrary, when the buildings and operations of the trust were put before him under the Commerce Act, he said that everything was all right. “ Approved- Mr. Tudor.” This is that same trust now that we are supposed to be coddling, and in league with, and in the hands of. I venture to say that it will be found, when the papers are perused, and the whole history of the transaction is turned up, that the present is the first Government who have seriously tried to find out whether this trust is hurting Australia, and who have tried to inquire seriously into the operations of trusts. Therefore, no blame lies at our doors, no matter what may happen.
An Honorable Member. - What about the referenda?
– Yes, the referenda - everything honorable members do is with an eye to politics; that is the curse of the whole thing. They put a political complexion on every social duty, and everything is manipulated and shaped with a view to trying to keep their seats and get votes.
– Ditto, Brother Smut!
– Order ! The honorable member for Gwydir must know that he is not in order in referring to the Prime Minister as “Brother Smut.”
– I am sorry I misnamed the Prime Minister. I apologize.
– What I am trying to say is that, since this Government took office, we have never ceased our endeavours to find out what the trust is doing.
– What have you done?
– I hope the honorable member will find out in a few days. We have gone to work and done something more than talk about trusts on the platform and in this House; we have done something other than waste the time of Parliament. We have Bills being finished at the present moment which, we believe, will cope with this evil.
– What Bills?
– Bills that were given notice of last night by my colleague.
– Unconstitutional; like the others.
– We will see about that; but we do not think they are unconstitutional. At any rate, we think it better to try, even though we fail, than to do nothing but emit hot breath. The hot breath is all on the Opposition side, and the action is over here. The Government are going further than I have already indicated. I believe these trusts have been harmful in other places, and, if they have been harmful elsewhere, they may be harmful here. But, first of all, we want the facts ascertained.
– You denied that there were trusts.
– I have never denied that; I have said that I do not know what they are doing. Only the honorable member knows everything. He knows all the facts about the trusts. Did his colleague tell him? Because the honorable member for Yarra knew; representatives of the trust were in his office discussing the matter.
– Try to tell the truth.
– Mr. Speaker, did you hear that remark? I get those insults every time from the ex-Speaker.
– I did not hear the honorable member’s interjection.
– The honorable member is asking me again to try to tell the truth.
– The imputation conveyed in that remark is so obvious that I ask the honorable member for Kennedy to withdraw it.
– I merely repeated the honorable member’s own words. He said that he was trying to speak the truth, and I told him to try.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw the words he used.
– I withdraw them.
– My time is nearly up, and I have uttered scarcely a sentence that has not been interrupted.
– I must ask honorable members to keep order.
– I know the facts are unpalatable to honorable members opposite ; but I desire to say that the Government are taking resolute and determined action, first of all, to ascertain the facts, .and then to invoke all the processes of the law in defence of the consumers of this country, and to take heed that the Beef Trust does not perform its depredations here as it unhappily has done elsewhere. The nature of those proposals will be made known in a few days. In the meantime, we propose to appoint a Royal Commission, a Commission of one - a Judge, if we can get one.
– To do what?
– To ascertain the facts concerning the operations of this company; .to find out if there is a trust in Australia that is operating in a way which is harmful to the consumers of meat in Australia. This Judge, I hope, will declare authoritatively, and without prejudice, bias, or party heat, all the facts concerning this case; and once the facts are ascertained, the Government will take steps to insure that the consumers of Australia are looked after and saved from the operations of any malign combination. No matter what it may cost to do that, the Government will do it, if it be humanly possible. If the trouble requires something done outside Australia, we can only operate in conjunction with other bodies; but, so far as Australia itself is concerned, we can, and ought to, control the operations of the trust; and I can only say, on behalf of the Government, that we will control them.
.- I challenge the Prime Minister to have printed the papers connected with the Beef Trust and the approval which I gave for the erection of meat works. Let any honorable member on the Government side prove that any action of mine was against the interests of the people of Australia, that I did anything that I should not have done, and I will be prepared to leave this House. I will leave it to the Minister who succeeded me to say whether I did anything, while in that Department, that lie would not be compelled to do under the same law, and in the same circumstances. The Attorney-General admitted the other day that I did not do anything which I should not have done. These men pro posed to erect the most up-to-date works in Australia, and approval of those works, under the Commerce Act, could not be withheld.
– The honorable member had information of the fact that the American Company was starting operations in Australia.
– That it was erecting works here.
– For what purpose?
– For the killing and the’ shipment of meat. The Minister himself will say that I did nothing in connexion with the matter that I could avoid doing.
– Give him a certificate.
– The Prime Minister was very touchy about interjections while he was speaking, but he does not hesitate to interject when some one else is addressing the House. He would like to “ side track” me. I certainly would prefer a certificate from the man who succeeded me as Minister of Trade and Customs, who knows all the circumstances, rather than from the Prime Minister; but even he in his calmer moments would admit, if it were not for political reasons, that I did not do anything that I could have refused to do.
– The Prime Minister was emphasizing the fact that the honorable member knew of the existence of the alleged trust.
– That is not so. The Prime Minister has said again and again that I fostered the operations of the trust here. He was compelled yesterday to withdraw the statement that I had given it my blessing, but he repeated it once more to-day, and was again required to withdraw. The facts are that Mr. Malkow, who I believe to be a representative of Swift and Company, of Chicago, brought to the Department, not only plans of the works, but models of the buildings that it was proposed to erect, his object being to ascertain whether they were in accordance with the requirements of the Commerce Act. No building approved under that Act was as good as those which it was proposed to erect, and approval could not be withheld. The Prime Minister asked whether it was not a fact that one of the solicitors of the company interviewed me while I held office. It is a fact that Mr. Thynne or Mr. Macartney, one of the solicitors, called to see me. But for what purpose? His object was to ascertain whether it would not be possible for the rolled iron or steel, shaped, which it was intended to use in the construction of the building, to be admitted under another line in the Tariff, which would mean that a lower rate of duty would have to be paid. The item it should come under was doubtful, and naturally the Company desired to come in at the lower rate. I refused to allow it to be admitted at the lower rate, and the Company, or Trust, had to pay the duty. As to the honorable gentleman’s assertion that these people had practically the run of my office, I have only to say that I never refused to see any one who desired to interview me on public business. The humblest man in the community or the biggest employer was treated alike by me, whilst I held office. I saw all who desired to interview me on public business, and those who saw me will admit, I think, that I made no wrong suggestion, and that no wrong proposal was made to me. As far as this Company is concerned, and the statements that are being repeatedly made by the Prime Minister, I feel that my reputation is at stake.
– No, no.
– Yes ; the Prime Minister declared that I had done something for the Beef Trust.
– The honorable member takes him too seriously.
– I cannot lose sight of the fact that he is, even if it is by accident, the Prime Minister, or, nominally, the Prime Minister of Australia. He has made against me the imputation that I fostered this Beef Trust; that I coddled it, and that some of its directors interviewed me. As a matter of fact, Mr. Malkow was the only director who saw me. He had previously seen Mr. Lockyer, then Comptroller-General of Customs, and a record was made of all that was done. The plans of the buildings were approved, and, no matter who owned them, that approval could not have been refused. That was admitted by the Attorney-General in his speech on the censure amendment.
– Did the honorable member tell Mr. Malkow that he would prefer that the Company should not come here ?
– I did.
– Is that on record?
– No. I did not have my private secretary taking notes of the interview. It was not a deputation. Mr. Malkow I think will say that I saw him once and once only. That is my recollection. I certainly did not see him, as the Prime Minister suggested, many times. I should not care if the whole of the papers were printed. If the Prime Minister thinks it will serve the purpose of his party to have them published, let him move that they be printed and I will support the motion. I have nothing to be ashamed of - nothing to hide; and I repeat that no honorable member could have acted other than I did. I could not refuse to approve of the plans and specifications submitted by these gentlemen who are supposed and whom I believe to be the representatives of the Beef Trust in America.
– By way of personal explanation I desire to state that the honorable member for Yarra must be under a misapprehension as to what I said. I accused him of nothing except of having an interview with Mr. Malkow and other members of the trust, and of having approved of the proposals that were put before him, as the result of consultation with his officers. The honorable member admits all this.
– The Prime Minister suggested more.
– I did not. I did not impute the slightest wrong, at any time, to the honorable member for Yarra. All that I sought to establish was that he was perfectly aware of what was transpiring in this connexion twelve months before he left office.
– I do not desire to deal generally with this question, but certain phases of the Prime Minister’s reply to the honorable member who moved this motion seem to call for some comment. The Government, we are told, are proposing to do everything that humanly can be done to deal with the great question. It is very remarkable, when one looks back upon the various attitudes which the Government have assumed towards this trust, that at this juncture they should have come . at length - I say “at length” advisedly - to the point which we reached in 1910. In other words, they now admit the danger to Australia from this great trust, and they will shortly hav: to admit their utter lack of power to deal with it.
It is something that they should have admitted what they have. The rest will inevitably follow. Until quite recently they denied that there was any danger. The Prime Minister went through the last campaign denouncing the perfervid imaginations of the Fisher Government, and more particularly my own, in regard to these trusts, which he elegantly described as “ Billy’s bogies.” He declared that they really did not exist. They were nothing, or if they were anything at all they were not only harmless, but beneficial. But the honorable gentleman now lashes himself up to fever heat, and would have us believe that he is not only alive to the danger but that he proposes to do all that a man can do to deal with it. I intend to show what he can do, now that he is alive to the fact that this great trust is in operation here. Shortly put, he can do nothing. He is very much like a man who, having allowed some dreadful calamity to approach within striking distance of him, having all along stoutly declared that there was no such thing, suddenly realizes its existence, and says, “I see it now, and I shall do all that is humanly possible to avert it,” but knows at the same time that he is no more able to avert it than he is able to stop the earth going round the sun. The Prime Minister says he proposes to do all that is humanly possible ! And that is - until the Constitution is amended - nothing ! It is just as certain that this trust will do what it wishes, so far as we can prevent it, as it is that night shall follow day. How may we deal with this trust? I speak now, not of a hypothetical thing, or of trusts in general, but of a trust which the Minister admits is here, and which every member of the Ministry says must be dealt with.
But how to deal with it: that is the question! The Minister of Trade and Customs “ has his eye on it,” and one of the coruscations from his eye has materialized on the businesspaper. He proposes to amend the Australian Industries Preservation Act.
But though he should amend every Statute, he would be just as powerless as he is to-day. There is no means by which this Parliament can deal with this trust, unless the Constitution be first amended. I propose to prove that. The Government tell us that they intend to deal with the trust in two ways. The first of these is by an amendment of the Australian Industries Preservation Act,, with the exact nature of which we are not yet familiar. The other is by the appointment of a Royal Commission. Let me deal with these two proposals in turn. For what purpose do they, propose a Royal Commission? To inquire whether the Beef Trust is a menace to civilization and to the producers and consumers of Australia? Surely that is not necessary? It is no more necessary than it would be to appoint a Royal Commission to ascertain whether fire burns, or water, in sufficient quantities, drowns. It is as certain as anything in this world can be that the Beef Trust is here, not for the benefit of the Australian consumer or producer, but for the benefit of the Beef Trust. A Royal Commission is not necessary to inquire into that. If, however, the object of the Government is, by means of such a Commission, to get evidence to prosecute the Beef Trust, then I can only say that the Royal Commissions Act is just about as effective for getting evidence as would be the attempt to gather the constellation Hercules into a butterfly net! The Royal Commissions Act, even before the decision of the Privy Council in the Sugar Company’s case, proved to be a miserable failure. ‘ The Sugar Commission was told everything that we knew already, and all that there was no difficulty in finding out in other ways. But directly it began to ask questions necessary to ascertain material facts upon which to base a prosecution under the Act, or further legislation which would incriminate the Sugar Company, the witnesses declined to answer. Proceedings were then taken in the ‘ High Court, and an injunction was granted restraining the Commission from ‘ putting those questions. In the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and Others v. The Attorney-General and Others, as reported in the Argus Law Reports, Vol. 18, 1912, page 435, the High Court decided that a Royal Commission may ask no questions on the internal management of the affairs of a company; on the operations of a company outside the Commonwealth; as to the operations of the company as a corporation formed under the State laws, and lawfully exercising its corporate functions within the Commonwealth; relating to the value of particular parts of the property of the company, except such parts as are actually and directly employed - in this particular case - in the production and manufacture of sugar within the Commonwealth; and as to the details of salaries paid to officers except so far as these are relevant to the actual cost of such production and manufacture. That is to say that no answers to questions going to the root of monopoly or attempted monopoly by any company of the manufacture or sale of any commodity could be enforced.
That was the position before the Privy Council delivered its judgment in the same case. The Privy Council judgment, reported in the British Law Reports, Part 1, 14th March, page 327, held that the Royal Commissions Acts of 1902-12 were ultra vires so far as they purport to enable a Royal Commission to compel answers to questions, or order the production of documents, or otherwise compel compliance by members of the public with its requisition. Their Lordships, in delivering judgment, said, as reported on page 257 -
Without re-drafting the Royal Commissions Acts and altering them into a measure with a different purpose, it is, in their Lordships’ opinion, impossible to use them as a justification for the steps which the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry contemplates in order to make its inquiry effective. They think that these Acts were ultra vires, and void so far as they purported to enable a Royal Commission to compel answers generally to questions, or to order the production of documents, or, otherwise, to enforce compliance by the members of the public with its requisition.
That is the position to-day. No answers can bo enforced to material questions under that judgment; and, in any case, the Acts themselves are declared to be ultra vires, and beyond the “power of the Commonwealth to have passed. So much for the Royal Commissions Acts.
There remains now the question of amending the Australian Industries Preservation Act. When we went to the country, the Labour party were asked why they had never used the 1910 Act; and that silly question was asked again last night by persons who ought to have more sense and knowledge of the law than to put it. We did not use the 1910 Act to prosecute the Coal Trust for the simple reason that it is not usual under British law to try people under an Act when the offence has been committed before the passing of .the Act. I never in my life heard of that being done; and it would be such a startling and monstrous perversion of the customary procedure under British law that the very suggestion would create a revolution. The reason we did not prosecute under the 1910 Act was that the offence was committed before that Act was passed. But, in the light of the High Court judgment in the Vend case, I say deliberately that the 1910 Act would not have secured a conviction in that case, and cannot help the Government in this present difficulty. I say, too, that no amendment of the Act could in any way assist the Government to deal with this trust.
Of course, if the Government propose to impose an export duty, that is another matter ; but to that end an amendment of the Australian Industries Preservation Act is not needed. The Government have only to bring down a Bill imposing an export duty, and there would be an end of the matter - and of them. I should like to see the faces of the primary producers, who have spent their money to place the present Government in- office, if an export duty on their produce were proposed. When the Government muster up enough courage to take such a step, they will not be on the Treasury bench, but in heaven, or some other place where translated politicians go. But they will not impose an export duty on produce, and we may put that remedy aside. What remains? As I have said, no amendment of the Australian Industries Preservation Act would enable the Government to deal with this trust; and when the Prime Minister says they will do all that men may humanly do, he simply says that they will do nothing. Yet something ought to be done, something, indeed, must be done. The matter is one of extreme urgency, and the one straightforward plan would be to lay on the table of the House such amendments of the Constitution as are absolutely necessary to enable effective legislation to be passed. Let us sweep away all these shams - these test measures - and references to gentlemen having their eye on the matter, and keeping it under consideration; come to the bed-rock and amend the Constitution, and then this great trust will disappear, so far as being a menace to the country is concerned. Once the Parliament is armed sufficiently, the trust knows its own business better than to fight the whole people. It is because our hands are’ lashed behind our backs that the trust is carrying on its business in defiance of us. I hope that whatever is done will be done quickly and openly, and in such a way that we shall be able to deal with the trust, and not merely talk about it.
– In the first place, I wish to say that the Prime Minister made no insinuation against the honorable member for Yarra. What- the honorable gentleman said was that in July, 1912, the then Minister of Trade and Customs, and later the then AttorneyGeneral, knew of the possibility of the Meat Trust coming into Australia. The honorable member for Oxley, from the day he entered the House, has drawn attention to the fact. He has told us that everybody knows that this is a Beef Trust, in which we find that Swift and Company are supposed to be also associated. The honorable member for Yarra, as Minister of Trade and Customs, and the exAttorneyGeneral must have known that Mr. Malkow was connected with the United States, and that it was American money that was coming into Australia.
– Of course, we knew.
– That is the first point.
– If we could have prosecuted them we should have done so.
– The reason that there was no prosecution was, I presume, .that there was no evidence of any breach of the existing law.
– It was purely a Queensland institution.
– The honorable member knew, from his own knowledge, that application was being made to have this place appointed a place for export, and that, therefore, it was intended for the export trade, and not for internal trade only.
– It was not an offence to export.
– If the honorable member looks at the Act he will see that it applies to Inter-State and external trade.
– Of course.
– And, in connexion with the export trade, it is an offence to unduly restrain trade or attempt to monopolize it.
– The honorable gentlemen I have mentioned knew the facte, and they knew the history of the trust in the United States, as was shown when they went all over Australia using its existence as a great political war cry.
– The Minister knows that this, company was not exporting at that time.
– That is quite true j but the honorable member will admit that it was known the company came here with the intention of exporting. Why did they desire to come under, the Commerce Act if they were not going to engage in the export trade? I ask the honorable member for West Sydney whether, when by an .alteration in the Constitution he gets the complete control he desires. he will have any more control over the export trade than, there is under the law today? The honorable member must admit that, so far as the Constitution is concerned, there is absolute and sovereign control over the exports and imports of Australia.
– Is the control over exports sufficient to control the trust? We have ample power over exports.
– And could any amendment of the Constitution give more power?
– Over exports, no; nor over imports.
– Our complaint against the honorable member for West Sydney is that, knowing the company was here to engage in nothing but the export trade, and that it .was alleged they would endeavour to obtain complete control over, and to monopolize, that trade, he did not, with a majority in both Houses, attempt-
– To do what?
– To devise some means to meet the situation.
– Let the Minister devise some means.
– If the honorable member got the amendment of the Constitution that he desires, what would be the terms of the Bill he would draft? An amendment of the Constitution would not remedy the evil, because it only gives authority to introduce an Act of Parliament. Although the late Government knew the evil, and although they were three years in power, they made no attempt to legislate in relation to it. All they did was, in 1910, to introduce an amendment which omitted the words having reference to intent and the detriment to the public, and left the onus of proof on the defendants; that was the whole sum of their legislation.
– Was it?
– Except minor amendments in regard to procedure. And what else could have been done?
– If the Minister says that there was ample power, the High Court proves him to be utterly wrong.
– That is not so. The honorable member himself admits that, even with an amendment of the Constitution, he would not get any more power over the export trade than there is now.
– Does the Minister think that there ought to be an export duty?
– It will be time to crfticise an export duty when it is proposed. As a matter of fact, the only people in Australia who have ever proposed an export duty on primary products are the honorable members opposite. They have been “roasted” in the country for their suggestion, and they are “ burning “ now ; and they try, characteristically, to fasten their iniquities on this side of the House.
– We have the words of the Attorney-General on this matter.
– If the honorable member had heard the Attorney-General in this House-
– Is it not the proposal of the Government?
– The honorable member will hear the proposal in due time. But no honorable member on this side of the chamber has ever made such a suggestion. Suggestions have come from those behind honorable members oppo site, and they must father them. I am sorry that the honorable member who followed the honorable member for Oxley did not discuss this matter in his quiet, temperate, judicial manner, which it is refreshing to hear. No one gave justification for their onslaught upon the Ministry. As a matter of fact, honorable members on both sides are engaged in the solution of a serious problem, which calls for calm and earnest consideration, and the combined efforts of men of ability in all parties, in order to arrive at it.
– And the efforts of the people of Australia.
– The people of Australia have already given a good deal of power which they are entitled to have exercised on their behalf. The honorable member for Oxley has emphasized many facts, and we are thankful to him for having mentioned them; but I am not aware that there is anything he has stated that is not already known to the Department, while I do know that some matters alleged to exist have in fact no existence. The honorable member does his duty honorably and well in putting before the Department any additional facts which will enable us to make the investigation upon which we are now engaged.
– The Minister lashed himself into a high state of excitement, and in an exceptionally loud voice started off to show a certain line which the honorable member for Oxley should have followed, and the power the Commonwealth has under the Constitution ; but as he approached that point he carefully steered away from it. The Minister, who is a barrister, and was at one time Attorney-General in the Commonwealth, accused the exAttorneyGeneral for not taking action. On what? Because he did not prosecute the combine.
– I did not blame him for not prosecuting.
– From beginning to end the honorable member’s argument was a charge against the exAttorneyGeneral for not having taken action against the trust.
– I did not say that.
– That was the tenor of the honorable member’s argument. He showed that there was ample power in the Constitution to deal with the matter.
– To “legislate.”
– The honorable member said there was power to deal with the exports. He led up to that; he said there was sufficient power to deal with the matter; and then he asked the exAttorneyGeneral, “What did you do in the matter?” The only deduction one could make from that was that the ex- AttorneyGeneral had never attempted to prosecute the trust, when, as a matter of fact, these people had not exported a pound of meat.
– That was not what I said.
– The honorable member is now trying to twist and twirl his remarks, hut he cannot escape them. He saw his difficulty when he approached the point, and immediately steered away from it; and now he says, “Why lash yourselves into all this fury?’.’ What about the innuendoes of the Prime Minister a few minutes ago about the late Minister of Trade and Customs - which honorable gentlemen knew were not in accordance with fact, and which he had no right to make - as much as to say that some action on the part of the late Minister of Trade and Customs was not all it should have been in his position as Minister? It was a base and unworthy im putation that should not have been made. The present Minister of Trade and Customs tried to defend that sort of thing, and immediately advised honorable members to treat the matter in a philosophical way. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister never gets up to make a statement of any kind, and at any time, without his whole object being to try to impute motives to honorable members, and twist their statements, so as to leave an. innuendo, and cast a slur on them. He puts me in mind of a fellow who went down the street, and said, “Look here, Jones; I heard you told some one that I was the biggest liar in town,” and Jones replied, “ No. Smith, I did not say that ; I thought he knew it.” I regret the Government have not taken some steps to deal with this matter. What is the use of a Royal Commission? We know that the Commission will not have power to ask questions which are actually vital in connexion with getting the necessary information. Until Parliament has power to compel any trust or corporate body to disclose the actual profits it is making, we shall not be able successfully to deal with the matter of the high cost of living.
– The States have that power.
– The States may have the power, but no State has attempted to use it in order to get the necessary information. The honorable member should know that wherever the trade of an institution extends beyond the boundaries of one State it becomes an InterState matter, with which no one State can interfere. It is impossible to do anything with our Constitution as it now stands. Who were those loudest in their protests against amending the Constitution when we asked for the necessary power to deal with these trusts? Honorable members opposite. Did we not hear them from one end of the country to the other saying that there was no trust in Australia ; the Attorney-General said that the only trust about which there was any evidence was one in relation to confectionery; but now honorable members opposite are beginning to realize that there is something in the trust business of which they should take notice. Now that the matter is one which is affecting the people to such an extent that they are demanding that something should be done, the Government turn round, and they are going to give us an inquiry, just like the late leader of the party opposite - Mr. Deakin. He had another method of dealing with matters; he used to write a memorandum, and that was all we heard about any matter. The present Government, when they realize that a thing is seriously and vitally affecting the people, turn round and say that they will appoint a Commission of some kind, a Commission that has no power to ask one single question of vital importance bo the people.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Debate resumed from the 6th May (vide page 664), on motion by Mr. W. H. Irvine -
That he have leave to bring in a Bill f or an Act to prohibit, in relation to Commonwealth employment, preferences and discriminations on account of membership or nonmembership of an association.
– Properly, the point of order should have been taken yesterday, when the House was discussing the proposed sessional order; it is not customary to consider points of order which are raised retrospectively. However, the point is an interesting one. With regard to the first contention of the honorable member for Brisbane, the House undoubtedly intended, and by special order directed, that on this Thursday the hour of meeting should be half-past 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I take that to be the general decision of honorable members, as it was come to by the passing of a special motion moved by the Prime Minister, and, therefore, it became a special direction of the House. The resolution passed later, creating a sessional order, was intended, I take it, to deal with, not today’s sitting, but all subsequent sittings for the remainder of the session. It did not purport to rescind the special motion passed in regard to to-day’s meeting.
– It must have superseded it.
– Such a resolution could not, under our Standing Orders, be rescinded by a subsequent motion later in the day, as seven days’ notice of rescission is required. I think that honorable members generally will agree with me when I say that the wish of the House was that we should meet to-day at half-past 2 o’clock, and that the sessional order fixing halfpast 10 as the hour for meeting on Thurs- days should apply to all subsequent meetings on that day; As to the second contention, the House yesterday directed that Government business should take precedence of ail other business, and in pursuance of that resolution Government business has been placed first on the notice-paper for to-day. I would remind honorable members that no provision has yet been made for private members’ business, and there is nothing in the Standing Orders making it obligatory to have private members’ business considered on Thursdays. The consideration of private members’ business has always been arranged for by a sessional order; but that has not been done so far this session.
– On the point of order-
– Is the honorable member raising a fresh point of order?
– Yes. I submit that this House is sitting illegally.
– I have decided that point.
– You did not deal specially wilh that point, and the honorable member did not raise it. I maintain that the motion submitted by the Prime Minister, fixing the hour of meeting at 2.30 to-day, was nullified by the subsequent sessional order fixing the hour of meeting at half-past 10 o’clock a.m.
– I have clearly decided that point. If the honorable member dissents from my ruling there is a proper course for him to follow, but he will not be in order in traversing the ruling.
– I am satisfied that we could all go home if we liked.
.- The business before the House is the consideration of a motion by the AttorneyGeneral asking for leave to bring in a Bill on the lines of one passed through this House last session, and sent to the Senate. It is intended to convey to the people of Australia the idea that it is the desire of this Government to prevent favoritism and discrimination in Government employment.
– Why not wait until you see the Bill?
– The motion practically gives the provisions of the Bill. I echo what has been said by the honorable member for Bendigo, that the motion, like the Bill, is a fraud upon the Constitution, and that what is being done is not the action of a straightforward Government. The intention of the AttorneyGeneral is clear, and he has never hesitated to place his views on this matterplainly before the country. He is associated with the Prime Minister, who, all his life, whether mistakenly, because his judgment was wrong, or because he was misled, has adopted a view directly opposite from that embodied in the proposal before us. But now, as head of the Government, he proposes to do what he declared to be wrong, unjust, and bad, in the earlier days of his political career. No one has a right to reflect on another for any change of opinion, provided that there has been a change of opinion; but we have no evidence that there has been such a change in the case of the Prime Minister. I am of opinion that this Government, instead of wishing to do justice in connexion with appointments to the Public Service, intends injustice. Thelast Administration, in declaring that it would give preference to unionists, rid’ itself of even the shadow of partiality, Ministers stating that their policy waspreference to unionists by the Courts, and by the Parliament. For the last nine or ten years, a majority of thoseelected to this Parliament have been infavour of. preference to unionists, given,, not only by the Courts, but by the Parliaments and by the Executive. Different Parliaments have affirmed the principle of preference, and it is inconsistent,, when we have empowered the Courts togive preference under certain circumstances, to say that the Executive Government may not do so. I would have no» hesitation in telling my electors, as I told them before the last election, that the straightforward course is for Parliament to give effect to the principle of preference to unionists through the Executive. The Government now in power aremisleading innocent people into the belief that no preference is to be given to any one-:-certainly not to unionists - and Ministers will, without any qualms of ‘conscience, brush out unionists and take in their own friends. If applicants for employment are not unionists, they are tohave preference. This is exclusion of unionists. It prohibits the employment; of unionists.
– It does not.
– It does in effect, though not in words.
– That is a rascally statement to make. The right honorable member knows that it does not.
– The actions of this Government prove that it does. If a man is seen to have been a unionist appointee, it has meant his death as a civil officer ever since this Government came into power.
– Can the right honorable member give a single instance in support of that accusation?
– He cannot.
– Ministers are the representatives of a party which is driving them to do this.
– The right honorable member is making infamous statements.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Never mind the point of order; this is a point of conscience.
– Conscience! The right honorable member is making statements that he knows are not correct.
– I trust that the rules of debate will be observed, and that the honorable member for Wide Bay will be allowed to make his speech without undue interruption.
– Is it in order for the Leader of the Opposition to keep repeating a charge which has not a tittle of justification ?
– Is that a point of order ?
– Will this rowdy ex-Speaker hold his tongue?
– The Prime Minister is not. expressing himself in parliamentary language. I cannot allow him to speak in. that manner. The honorable member for Wide Bay is in order in making charges against the Government so long as he does so in proper parliamentary form. It is not in order for any one to interrupt him.
– The Prime Minister referred to me as the “rowdy exSpeaker.” I take no exception to that, but should I be in order in saying that he is an “ ex-scab “ ?
– It would not be true; though it would be true of some of the members of the Labour party.
– I have no intention of discussing this motion at length, but I shall avail myself of the opportunity to draw attention to it. The AttorneyGeneral has moved for leave to bring in a Bill for an Act ‘ ‘ to prohibit in relation to Commonwealth employment preferences and discriminations on account of membership or non-membership of an association.”
– Is there anything in the order of leave which excludes unionists from Government employment?
– The only thing aimed at by the motionis to bring in a Bill to preventthe employment of unionists. Behind the blind of impartiality the Liberal party will be able to put on its own employes. A unionist will not desert his union. In nine out of ten of the employments that would be affected by the Bill a unionist, as the Prime Minister knows, would not work with a nonunionist. Therefore, the real effect of the measure would be to create industrial strife, and a conflict between the unions and the Government, and debar unionists absolutely. ‘ No one has been more pronounced than the Prime Minister in saying that he would not work with “ scabs “ and non-unionists.
– That iswhat he said years ago. .
– Not years ago, but quite recently. I make no charge against him for that, but I make a charge against him on account of what he is doing now, putting up a placard,. “ We are immaculate., and no one will be penalized for his political opinions.” No one, since I have been in Parliament, has ever used such terms of insinuation and innuendo towards electors of the Commonwealth who happened to be unionists, as the Prime Minister has used.
– Has one unionist resigned because of his fears since the present Government came into office?
– The unionists are not built that way. They do not resign and run away when they are fighting for a principle. If the honorable member had been unfortunate enough to have to fight for his existence in industrial employment, and he had the capacity which his present position indicates that he has. he would probably have occupied a prominent position in a union, and he would have found great difficulty from time to time when fighting for the rights of himself and his fellow men. And if, after the honorable member had fought, for -his rights, and won them, and the Democracy had, at three separate elections, indorsed the principle he advocated as the policy of the country, would he find himself supporting a Government who wish, under the guise of treating everybody alike to deny to unionists even the right of employment? What is the difference between the hypocrisy of the Government and our proposal? We said that unionists, as an organized party, with set conditions of employment that are fair and reasonable, with .’remuneration that is sufficient to enable a man to keep himself, his wife, and family in that reasonable comfort which civilized beings ought to have, should be entitled to preference in Government employment. We did not say, and never shall say, that they should be employed to the absolute exclusion of others.
– That is extremely kind of you. You have gone as far as you can; but you have not quite’ the audacity to do that.
– As a party, we have a political record and an industrial record, and both are cleaner than the records of gentlemen sitting on the Government benches.
-“ I am not as other men are.”
– You are a “sort of Pharisee, I should think.
– The Attorney-General interjected very kindly, in that gentle tone of his - so judicial in terms, and, I suppose, specially selected for the occasion. I repeat again that, reviewing my twenty-eight years connexion with the Labour movement in Australia, the work accomplished in that movement will bear favorable comparison with anything done by any other organization. The Labour party have done more, in Parliament and out of Parliament, to ameliorate the hard conditions of the toilers, and to do justice to one and all, than all other parties together. Liberals say, “ We did this, and we did that.” Many of the things the Liberals say they did were never heard of until the Labour party came into Parliament; or, if they were heard of, they were only placards to catch a few fleeting votes. But the Liberals became very agile after the years 1891-2-3. There was a mental agility that was unknown previously, and social legislation came to pass. However, I do not want to go into that matter now. I oppose the proposal before the House, and I shall oppose the Bill. The Bill itself cannot be discussed now, although we know what its contents are. This motion means just’ what, I said it means. It is, in my opinion, a placard for a purpose other than it purports to serve, but underneath it is the deliberate intention of the Government to get a political advantage for themselves by enabling them to employ all the casuals from, not among the unionists, but from amongst the non-unionists. In reply to an interjector, I have nothing to say against Mr. Packer, or any other man. We have our principles of unionism to uphold, and we shall uphold them despite all the Packers that ever came into existence. But when we see the Prime Minister and other Ministers conciliating and consulting Mr. Packer and his friends, we know that is only an additional instance of the desire of the Government to break up the real unions which have done so much for the country, and it is evidence, if it is not proof, of. their determination to discriminate against the real unionists, and not against the bogus unionists. The Prime Minister knows that better than I can tell him. I Oppose this motion, and I hope that the Bill, if it reaches the House, will not pass. I fought my last election everywhere in favour of preference to unionists as a just, sound, honorable and straightforward principle of organized society. Civilized Democracy cannot exist without it, and the man who does not know that is ignorant of the first rudiments of democratic government. Organize, organize; organize. As the honorable member for Bendigo pointed out, we do not believe in preference to only unions of employes, but also to unions of employers. The employers, as well as the employes, are mentioned in the Act, and we want all to be treated alike. I have always said that preference should be given to the employers as well as to the employes.
-“ All things being equal “; do not forget that.
– That makes no difference to me. But certainly “ all things being equal “ is a phrase that even the Attorney-General cannot take exception to.
– I do not take exception to it; it is a splendid phrase.
– The suggestion of the Attorney-General is that the phrase should not be taken notice of, and it is a proof of my allegation’ that even the phrase “ all things being equal “ will not prevent the Government from employing other than unionists. The Government want to remove the possibility of unionists being employed, even if all things be equal. I have seen a few Governments in Australia, both in the States and under the Federation, and may I tell the AttorneyGeneral that, when the first Labour Government in the world was formed in Queensland in 1899, there was not a single representative of Labour in the nominee Upper House who would speak for the Government, and that nominee Upper House was then, as now, supposed to be of a non-party character, and representative of all the interests of the country. The Labour party were polling then nearly 43 per cent, of the votes recorded, and yet we had not a single representative in that House. Honorable members yet talk about justice, and freedom, and their treatment of unionists. So far as they are concerned, justice and freedom have not begun yet. The influences behind the Government have driven them to take this action, which I believe to be wrong, with the object of hitting at the unionists, and not with a view of bringing about impartiality in Government employment. There are some people who think that this proposal will affect the employes under the Public Service Act. I do not think so. There are certain casual employes whom it will affect. But the opportunity which it will afford the Government to give patronage to their own friends and supporters will make it difficult for any unionist to be employed by the Government, although Ministers may not say so. I stand by the policy that the Labour party have adopted, and I am willing to accept the challenge of the Government to fight them on their own ground, and to consult the people on this measure.
.- I am sorry that at this early stage of the session I have to protest against the introduction of this Bill. I have many reasons for protesting against it, and I am quite opposed to giving the AttorneyGeneral leave to introduce a measure of this character. What does the Attorney-
General want the Bill for? According to the Prime Minister, any preference to unionists that existed when he took office has been abolished, and I have come to the conclusion that the only reason that the Attorney-General has for asking leave to introduce this Bill is that he desires to place before the public something which he thinks will arouse the passions of people who know nothing about political economy.
– You know that is not the reason.
– I am sure it is the reason. The Attorney-General’s horizon is limited to Victoria, which has been very good to him. I do not think he spends much time in the other States of this great Commonwealth. His horizon is limited to Victoria, and to a very Conservative section of the people of Victoria. Unfortunately, we have in this State two great dailies with a circulation of about 130,000 to-day which are not supporters of the national Labour party.
– The circulation of the Argus is not nearly 130,000 a day.
– The Argus, which is an outspoken enemy of our party, represents the Conservative section of the community - those who have grown rich under the present system, and do not desire any change; those who hope to be rich, and those who think that to buy the Argus is a very respectable thing to do. It has misrepresented our aims to these people, telling them that we are endeavouring to do something unjust in connexion with our proposal that where, say, two men of equal qualifications - one a member of the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners Association and the other a non-member - apply for employment, the preference shall be given to the association member. Honorable members opposite who have accused the unemployed workers of Australia of asking for work, and praying to God that they may not get it, now think it necessary to bring in a Bill to prevent the making of any distinction between two men who are eager to obtain work. Why is such a Bill necessary? Evidently, although the Ministerial party has denied it many a time, the workers of Australia are most anxious to get employment. By this Bill honorable members opposite say, in effect, that there are two men after the one job. If that be so, what are they doing for the unemployed ?
– Two bosses for the one man.
– I am not going to be led away by the honorable and supercilious member for Riverina. I was speaking of the Attorney-General’s desire to appeal to the passions of the Conservative classes of Victoria, as well as to those who have been misled. Thousands of workers in this State take the Argus, thinking it a most respectable thing to do. It is “ tony “ to subscribe to the Argus. In some places they will not have the Labor Call.
– That is mere prejudice.
– It is not In some newsagents’ shops I have seen no trace of a Labor Call, and when I have asked for a copy, the shopkeeper has drawn one from under a bundle of other papers.
– Ashamed to have it.
– No; afraid to exhibit it, because of the influence of the society paper, the Argus. The Attorney-General is quite wrong in his view that he will be successful in his appeal to the society prejudices of the people of Victoria. No doubt he and the Prime Minister believe that if they can only have the next election decided on this question - and that is why they speak of this as a “ test “ Bill - they will win. The AttorneyGeneral, in his political enmity to the workers of Australia, however, has overreached himself. He has abandoned the attitude of the man who desires fair play. He takes up, quite conscientiously, I believe, the stand that he wishes to give fair play, and declares that the Government desire that there shall be a fair field and no favour. But if that is so, why does he ask for leave to introduce a Bill which deals only with the industrial classes, and does not apply to his friends of the Bar Association? Why does not this Bill apply to the professional classes?
– It does. We are an organization. It applies to us.
– The Bill declares that preference shall not be given by any officer of the Commonwealth to a member of a political or industrial organization.
– Is that what it says?
– Yes. Does not the AttorneyGeneral know what is in his own Bill?
– What is an industrial association?
– Certainly not the Bar Association.
– Does the honorable member for Bendigo say that the Bar Association is not an industrial association?
– Yes. It is very industrious, but is not an industrial association.
– Quite so. When one speaks of men engaged in industry, one has in mind carpenters and joiners, bricklayers, plumbers, stone-masons, ana so forth. We do not regard our “hightoned “ friends, the honorable member for Bendigo and the Attorney-General, as belonging to an industrial organization. They belong, as I am reminded, to one of the learned professions. Where are the learned professions under this Bill?
– No doubt the AttorneyGeneral will bring them under the Bill.
– We shall compel him either to do so or to face the music as a man who is not prepared to do the fair thing by all in the community. If he is fair he will see that the Bill applies to the barrister in the Court - and judging by what I read of a Court case recently, there are barristers who do not act in conformity with the rules of the Bar Union - as well as to other sections of the community. One can imagine people saying, as they gaze upon the Attorney-General standing on a public platform, “ He is the apotheosis of equity and justice.”
Mr.W. H. Irvine. - Do not call me names that I do not understand.
– The honorable gentleman blushes, because he knows the description is not true.
– I do not understand the honorable member.
– The society classes regard the Attorney-General as the embodiment of fair play. They do not see him in this House.
– My electors do not so regard him.
– That is because they read the Age. I ask the Attorney-General to be fair. Last year there appeared in an Adelaide newspaper the statement that the Government intended to introduce two test Bills to bring about a dissolution. They were to contain only two clauses. The Attorney-General must have a very poor opinion of honorable members on this side. I heard him say once that members of the Labour party ‘seemed to come to the top like corks on water, the suggestion being that they had very little brains
– When did I ever -say or imply anything of the kind? I should have thought it was sufficiently obvious in regard to some of the party, but I should not apply such a statement to all.
– Having described thirtysix members of our party as incapable, and the remaining one as a capable man, the Attorney-General as a lawyer would say he was justified in asserting that he had not applied such a remark to all of us.
– But I did not say anything of the kind.
– Even if the honorable member did not, his actions suggest that he has but a poor opinion of our intelligence and experience. He said in effect, “We will bring down two test Bills containing only two clauses, push them through the House of Representatives, and send them on to the Senate, where they will be rejected. We shall then get a double dissolution.” Are not the Standing Orders for the protection of the minority? The Attorney-General thought that if the Bill were restricted to only two clauses, we should be prevented practically from moving any amendment. No doubt it was for that reason that he refrained from providing for the imposition of penalties. If this Bill is the same as that before us last session, then it is not worth the paper it is printed on, because it does not provide for any penalty. Are we to permit offending public servants to be sentenced to some punishment by the Attorney-General, in whom I can see a likeness, in some respects, to the Judge Jeffreys of seventeenth century fame.
– Did the honorable member know him ?
– I have read of him. That Judge, when a prisoner claimed the benefit of the law, replied, “ I shall give you the benefit of the law “ ; and immediately turning to the executioner said, “ See that the execution is carried out successfully.” I do not wish for a moment to attribute all the characteristics of Judge Jeffreys to the AttorneyGeneral, but the honorable gentleman is that type of man.
– I do not know why the honorable member should not do so, because that is no worse than much that has been said about me.
– The Attorney-General is a forceful character, who believes in rough and ready methods; and I should not like to trust him with the power of dealing with and sentencing an officer who violated the provisions of this Bill should it become law. That is why I am availing myself of this opportunity given by the Standing Orders to object to leave being given to introduce a measure of the sort. The honorable gentleman, is the idol of society, as represented by the Women’s National League; and councillor somebody or other, a little time ago, described him as a man of “ grit, go, and gumption.” He is regarded as the natural leader of the Conservative forces in this House, simply because he is in a position to say to his party, “ If you do not do as I desire, I shall burst up the party by resigning from politics altogether “ ; indeed, that is what the honorable gentleman has said.
– The honorable member knows so much, really ! He ought not to “give away” all this!
– The Attorney-General does not deny that he has said what I have quoted ; and it is idle for him to attempt to pass it off with a laugh. There is no doubt that the honorable gentleman is in a position to do as he threatens, because the Liberal party has a majority of only one. However, I am afraid I am getting a little away from my subject. The society classes, as I have intimated, regard the Attorney-General as perfection. Even my own friend and political enemy, the honorable member for Parkes, does so - that gentleman who lectures on the desirability of a sound mind in a sound body, and invites his audience to “ Behold in me a perfect mind in a perfect body.” All of us who have any regard for the fair sex. must feel a very high admiration for the leading members of the Women’s National League; but if those ladies saw and heard the Attorney-General answering questions in this House I am sure they would say, “ I really think that Mr. Irvine ought to be more fair.” On the 18th November, 1913, I asked the Attorney-General -
I wish to know from the Attorney-General whether he intends to provide for the punishment of any person who fails to observe the provisions of the Government Preference Prohibition Act should the Bill now before the House become law? I do not see anything in the measure providing penalties for the punishment of any official or other person who refuses to carry out the law. Is it proposed to provide penalties, and, if so, what are they to be?
I ask honorable members now to listen to the answer given by this idol of the society classes in Victoria -
I do not intend to answer questions relating to measures which are before the House. To answer questions as to what is meant by or intended in regard to the legislation actually before Parliament would turn question time into an opportunity for debating at almost interminable length business which ought not to be discussed until called on in the ordinary course.
I naturally thought, in view of that answer, that the Attorney-General intended to impart some information when the Bill was before us; but on the very next day he “ gagged “ the Bill through the House without any penalty clauses being attached. What would a Court of Law think of such an answer? The honorable gentleman is well aware that, under the Standing Orders, there can be no debate at question time; and if he had replied plainly, “ I do not intend to introduce any penalties,” there would have been an end of the matter. The AttorneyGeneral, however, is like the Prime Minister; he, as it were, has a bucketful of political dust alongside, and every now and then he takes out a handful and tries to throw it in the eyes of the people of Australia. If no penalties are set forth in the Bill, who will decree the punishment of any officer of the Commonwealth who may happen to grant preference? Is it to be left to the Attorney-General? Are we to judge of what the honorable gentleman would do to those officers, by what he proposed in his notorious Coercion Bill in the State Parliament? I have forgotten the penalties under that Bill, but I know they were extremely drastic.
– It never became an Act.
– I know it did not.
– Because it did its business.
– That is, the mere threat of such a Bill “ did its business.”
– Yes, and very effectually too.
– Then, I suppose the AttorneyGeneral thinks that the threat implied in the Bill now before us, is also going to “do its business”? Is it intended to rouse the passions of people who probably have never had occasion to join a union? The ladies of the Women’s National League, doubtless, were never in any union but that most estimable union known as the marriage tie. They have no idea of the struggles of trade unionists ; -they know nothing of the troubles of builders’ labourers, stonemasons, lumpers, and other waterside workers, shearers, and rouseabouts, like those unfortunates who have to pick up the fleeces of the honorable member for Riverina. Does the Attorney-General expect to inflame the minds of those ladies, and other supporters of the Liberal cause, by a proposal which will “ do its business “ as did his Coercion Bill? I was in Melbourne at the time that Bill was introduced in the Victorian Parliament, but I forget whether the railway men were actually on strike, or had merely threatened to strike.
– That shows how much the honorable member knows about the matter!
– Much water has run under the bridge in the intervening ten or eleven years, and one may be forgiven if the incidents are forgotten. At any rate, my memory is good enough to enable me to say that the Bill to which I refer made it a penal offence for a sympathetic person to contribute half-a-crown in aid of the strike fund. Such a Bill is worse than any passed for the settlement of troubles in Ireland. Knowing the disposition and character of the AttorneyGeneral, it would, in my opinion, be a great shame to intrust him with the power to penalize and throw out on a cold world any civil servant who, having regard to equity, justice, and the substantial merits of the case, might give preference to a unionist. The AttorneyGeneral may claim this power, because the inference is that the measure he proposes to introduce is similar to that which was before the House last year, leaving it quite open as to who shall punish these individuals, and what their punishment shall be. Are they to be immersed in boiling oil ? Sometimes, when our imaginations become particularly fevered, we may imagine the AttorneyGeneral pouring molten lead into the ears of these unfortunate civil servants.
– I think it is beyond the limits of the Standing Orders to accuse an honorable member of an atrocity of that kind.
– I beg to withdraw the suggestion. If you remember, sir, I only said that we might imagine it at some period in this session when our imaginations might be worked up to a fever heat by the happenings in the Chamber. The Attorney-General may pass away, and another Attorney-General may be there who may be of a more severe disposition, and may drive a nail into the ear of an unfortunate civil servant who offends in this respect. I do not derive very much inspiration from contemplating the PostmasterGeneral. I am not able to get a lead from contemplating his countenance, because I know that he cannot have sympathy with the introduction of a Bill of this kind. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters was formed sixty years ago, when men were receiving, in some cases, 4s. 6d. a day for goodness knows how many hours’ work, and the carpenters decided that, in the interests of themselves and their families, they should unite and form a union, paying 6d._ or is. a week into funds to provide against unemployment, ill-health, and accidents. This union has paid out more than £3,500,000 sterling in these directions, and I am sure the Postmaster-General recognises that a member of that body should have preference over one who will* not join the union, and will not pay 6d. a week towards these funds. When the Commonwealth has some casual work to offer for a few days here and a few days there, and two men, both equally good workmen, come seeking employment, the one a member of this union and the other one who says he will not join it, in fairness, I am sure, the Postmaster-General would give the job to the unionist. The Minister sees the justice of giving preference to the man who belongs to a union. If any one is under the impression that there is a huge obstacle in the way of a man joining a union, let me disabuse his mind of it. I think that a man can join the Carpenters Union for 5s.
– To join the Wharf Labourers Union a man has to pay £5.
– At one time you could not join the Wharf Labourers Union in New South Wales no matter what you offered.
– You have no proof of that.
– Order I
– Any carpenter who has served his time, and knows his trade, and possesses 5s., can join the Carpenters Union. I think that the subscriptions for the Builders’ Labourers Union, the Australian Workers Union, and similar organization, are about £1 per annum.
– And the. members of one union get a paper for that money.
– Yes; every year they get ‘fifty-two issues of a very good paper. No one seriously believes that the payment of an entrance fee of 5s. or £1 is an obstacle to any one joining a union, and when men can join these unions and get all the privileges embodied in the term “preference to unionists” why should they not join in the interests of civilization? Under the Arbitration Act we have provided that the Judge acting according to good conscience and equity can give preference, other things being equal. I believe that the honorable member for Kooyong, exMinister of Trade and Customs, and exMinister of a lot of other things, voted for that provision.
– At that time it was surrounded by a vast number of safeguards, all of which your party swept away.
– The honorable member supported that provision, and so did several other honorable members who were then followers of Mr. Deakin. Are they now going to reverse their form and follow the example of the present Prime Minister, who has reversed his form on so many occasions, and is more agile than an acrobat or one of those gentlemen who loop the loop ? Do the honorable member for Kooyong and the Postmaster- General think it is fair to push through the House a Bill which excludes from its operation lawyers, and the medical profession and architects ? We shall require a large number of draughtsmen and architects in connexion which the building of the Capital at Canberra, and a host of other professional men will get employment from the Commonwealth, yet they are not to be brought under the operation of this Bill..
Is not that class legislation of a very bad type?
– But honorable members opposite are here to represent a class.
– The Attorney-General is here mainly to represent the society classes, whose idol he is. There are some honorable members who are here to give fair play, but generally, as regards honorable members on the Government side, no matter what their hearts may say, their heads tell them to follow the lead of the Attorney-General. I never utter threats, and I do not say it as a threat, but on every possible occasion I shall oppose any attempt at class legislation. The unfortunate man who has to work with bowyangs has as much right to justice at the hands of the Commonwealth as the Attorney-General, who goes into Court with his wig and gown. But the Attorney-General, however, does not think so, and in his brutal methods - politically brutal - he seeks to drive a steam roller over the House and rush this Bill through, regardless of all forms and ceremony. Honorable members who support him in this course are unjust. Whether the Attorney-General will succeed in his desire to mislead the people of the Commonwealth, even with the aid of the Argus, is problematical. I am not going to give him a chance, if I can avoid it, of getting his so-called test dissolution. That brings me to another point. I wish to know whether the honorable member who comes from the Richmond River, possessing the confidence of the Ministry, was accurately reported when he said that it was the intention of the Government, the moment they took office, to force a double dissolution.
– I am credited with making that speech at Murwillumbah, but I never made any speech there, and I have never said any such thing.
– I have seen no contradiction.
– You have it now. I hope you will accept the assurance of the honorable member.
– According to the Standing Orders I must.
– Still it is very cleverly put in, because he has admitted that he said almost the same thing in another place.
– The Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and other responsible members of the party opposite have said, “ We are going for a double dissolution.” I oppose leave for the introduction of this Bill, because it is to be introduced to bring about a double dissolution. Has the Government no regard for the taxpayers? Probably every election costs £70,000, and Ministers are such plungers in finance that the next election may easily cost £100,000.
– Your speeches cost £500 a day.
– They are worth a great deal more than that.
– The speeches of the honorable member for Calare will not cost much.
– He would make speeches if he were permitted to do so. But, although the Liberals went to the country bearing a flag with the word “ Liberty “ emblazoned on it, they have very little more liberty in this Chamber than have the prisoners in Pentridge. When the honorable member gets back to Calare he will find difficulty in explaining to those who sent him here why he has been one of the dumb driven cattle.
– The honorable member is wandering from the point.
– You, sir, will excuse me if I do not hurry. It is for this House to put on the brake when legislation is proposed by a gentleman of the political instincts and history of the AttorneyGeneral, nephew of John Mitchel, and a distinguished member of the Bar, LL.D., M.A., and several other things which I need not mention. I may repeat, without being guilty of tedious repetition, that this is class legislation, and that the AttorneyGeneral, in his bitter animosity to reform, and in his desire to act up to his reputation for “grip, go, and gumption,” is attacking the working classes. Of course, every one works, though the idea is prevalent that it is only the wielders of picks and shovels who are workers.
– The honorable member himself is labouring now.
– That is not too bad for the honorable member. He has tried on many occasions in the past ten years to say something funny, but this is the first time that he has succeeded. I may appear to be labouring, but under the Standing Orders each member has a certain time in which to speak, and in the performance of our sacred duties we are entitled to proceed at as leisurely a pace as we may choose. The AttorneyGeneral, in his bitter antipathy to every man who wears dungarees and bowyangs, to every unfortunate who wields the hoe, has introduced a Bill which affects only the industrial classes, taking no notice of the architects, draughtsmen, civil engineers, barristers, solicitors, surveyors, doctors, and others who comprise what are known as the professional classes. I emphasize the fact in order to prick the little political balloon that the Attorney-General hopes to float. The sense of justice of the fair ladies of the Women’s National League, and even of the society people who read the Argus, will, when they know this, prompt them’ to turn down the honorable gentleman as a political leader, as well as many of those who are following him so sheepishly. I do not know why honorable members opposite - some of whom seem to be kindhearted fellows - allow the AttorneyGeneral to rule them in this way. Where is their professed independence? Where is the rising hope of young Australia, that man of strong individuality - the honorable member for Robertson?
– The question before the House is the motion for leave to introduce a Bill.
– It is that which is causing me to take up your time, Mr. Speaker. I object to the motion, first, because the Attorney-General wishes to introduce a Bill, and, secondly, because that Bill contains a provision to which I am opposed, and does not contain other provisions which it would contain if the honorable gentleman desired to be fair, and to act up to his reputation. I have no doubt that the time will come when he will adorn the Bench of this country, and I should be very willing to appoint him to a judicial position now.
– Where would his party be then?
– They would be where we want them to be. The Attorney- General is, no doubt, justly and rightly ambitious; but is he not doing wrong in allowing his party bias to lead him to introduce a measure of the kind proposed ? I am ready to make excuses for party politicians who do things that they ought nob to do ; but there is no reason for the action of the Attorney-General. We are quite willing to assist him and the Prime
Minister to pass measures of a national character, for which the people are waiting, and if he promised to introduce such measures I should at once sit down. I hope that, when the Attorney-General replies, if he so far condescends - and we have seen exhibitions of temper here that you, Mr. Speaker, have had to reprove, as when you told him that he ought to stand up when answering a question-
– The honorable member is doing it very well.
-I hope that the honorable member will not make it hard for me, causing me to stray from the point.
– Honorable members must cease from interjecting.
– As I was saying, we are ready to help the Government with measures of national importance, which I should not be in order in naming. This is not such a measure. What the AttorneyGeneral wishes to do by law is already being done, so that there is no occasion for the proposed Bill. All that the motion does is to disclose the unworthy character of the honorable gentleman’s political soul.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that reflection on the Attorney-General.
– I do so, and express regret that I used the words objected to. The moving of this motion shows the hatred of the Attorney-General to the working classes of Australia. The Bill is aimed at them alone, particularly at that section engaged in the building trade. The ex-Minister of Home Affairs wrote a minute to this effect, “ I find that we are paying 8s. 4d. per day in the building trade, and henceforth I desire that 9s. shall be paid, and that there shall be preference to unionists.” That minute excited the ire of the Attorney-General. I have often said that he cannot put himself into another man’s place. I never see a man working in a trench, or gathering rubbish in a street, without feeling thankful that I am not in his position; and I consider it my duty, whenever I can do so, to try to lighten the lot of such men.
– Hear, hear!
– I know that the Prime Minister feels as I do.
– That is so.
– The Prime Minister would do something; but he is allied with a party which will not permit him to do anything.
– We are doing something. We try to treat the employes of the Government as well as possible.
– While giving the AttorneyGeneral credit for all the attributes that the ladies of the Women’s National League think that he possesses, I believe that he has a hatred of the working classes, -and desires to curtail their political power. If he can do so by introducing a Bill, he will. I do not suggest that he would wrong any one of a copper, for I do not think that he would j but, since the working classes have obtained political power, he has a hatred of them, because lie fears them. He is afraid that if the Democracy of Australia gets the power which it seems likely to get, it will do something to harm him and those who belong to him. He does not fear for himself. He knows he has enough strength of mind and body to fight for himself, but he thinks that if the working classes of Australia get the power .they seem likely to get they will injure the class to which he belongs.
– Perhaps the honorable member will allow me to tell him that the Attorney-General this morning did an action in regard to the workingman which is to his infinite credit.
– Of course, we are told not to allow the right hand to know what the left hand doeth, and it is most interesting to me to hear that a member of the Government led by the Prime Minister hides his light under a bushel in that fashion. Why are we not to know what this action is?
– The honorable member may know.
– Is it a political action, a piece of legislation, or an act of administration? Of course if it is a charitable act, if money has been given to relieve distress, I quite believe that the AttorneyGeneral would do that freely every time. I dare say that the Attorney-General never passes a subscription list; but that is not his trouble. He is afraid that the working class, if they got power, would injure those who belong to other classes. The Conservatives are afraid that the Labour party will introduce legislation which will damage their offspring in time to come, and that is the reason for the introduction of legislation of this kind.
– It is a reason without ground.
– It is absolutely groundless, because every piece of social legislation which is the result of the work of this party and of the Prime Minister, when he was one of us, has improved the lot of the Conservatives and the rich.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I infer that this is the same Bill as we had before us last session, and its real object cannot bc to knocK out preference to unionists employed under the Commonwealth, because that has been achieved already by a simple act of administration, and any other Government may reinstate that principle by another administrative act. There can be only one object in introducing this Bill, and that is ostensibly to bring about a double dissolution. I say “ostensibly” advisedly, because I do not believe for a moment that either the Government or their supporters in this House and another place have in their heart of hearts the slightest intention of bringing about a double dissolution. Their talk is all a lot of make-believe; it is merely throwing dust in the eyes of the people, and we shall find that the party on the Government side have as little desire as anybody can have for either a single or double dissolution. They are obliged to make some show, however, and that is why this Bill is brought forward. One purpose in introducing this Bill as one of the so-called “test” measures is that the Government may find it a good election cry when they go before the people. They will go on the platform, and talk about British freedom, and say that everybody is to be treated alike, and no favoritism is to be shown, and no doubt such assertions may have some influence with some people. If there should be an ‘ election - and I very much doubt that there will - this story will be told to the electors, not only on the platform and in the Conservative journals day after day, but by that more insidious and almost contemptible method of sending paid canvassers from house to house. On platforms the speakers have to confine themselves to the object of the Bill, which is to abolish preference; but these men and women who are sometimes compelled by dire circumstances to sell their political souls to the Liberal party, and become paid canvassers, will not say ato the electors that the Bill affects only about 2,000 people throughout the Commonwealth. They will put the position to the electors in this manner, “ This Bill will affect everybody throughout Australia, and the Liberals are fighting for a great principle. If the Labour party is returned to power, every domestic servant will be compelled to belong to a union.” Here let me say that the term “servant” will disappear from use in time as the social status of those workers is raised. The securing of domestic help is an acute problem in Australia, but it would disappear if the social status of domestic assistants were improved. These canvassers will also tell the farmer that his son, unless he belongs to a union, will not be permitted to work for him, and other tales, even more dreadful than those that were ‘ scattered broadcast throughout Australia at the last election, will be whispered into the ears of the electors. If tha Government really wanted a double dissolution, they would have brought down a Bill of more farreaching importance, and then, if it was rejected by the Senate, no GovernorGeneral could refuse to grant a dissolution. Why are the Government not courageous enough to bring down a Bill WhiCh would do away with preference to unionists entirely ? They dare not do so, because they’ know that they would arouse the animosity and active opposition of the great unions throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Fearing those unions, the Government were not game to bring in a Bill of that character, but are simply introducing what has been rightly termed “ nothing but the shadow of a sham.” At any rate, it is a measure which can have no effect, because the object it purports to effect has been already achieved by a simple act of administration. If the Ministry had any courage, and any real desire to bring about reform, would it not have been better to have proposed a reform in connexion with unionism which would have almost made industrial strife in the Commonwealth impossible? It is my firm opinion that it would have been preferable if the Attorney-General had introduced a measure that would not only give preference to unionists, but make unionism compulsory.
– You are logical, at any rate.
– I know the AttorneyGeneral has a logical mind of a kind, and, therefore, I appreciate his interjection. As the honorable member is looked upon as one of the strong men in Australian politics, I hope he will lose no time in bringing forward a Bill to make unionism compulsory throughout Australia. I feel certain that, if that were done, nearly all the unpleasantness of industrial strife would disappear. I will admit that that is a big thing to say, because, in all our legislative efforts, we must always consider human nature, ‘and the characteristics of humanity; but I am prepared to say that compulsory unionism would be a solution of many of our present industrial troubles. On this question I do not speak from a party standpoint at all. I have a true desire to bring about industrial peace, as far as is possible, by legislation, and I am suggesting a means by which I believe industrial peace could be brought about.
– Is your party in favour of compulsory unionism ?
– I am speaking only for myself. I have not ascertained the opinions of other honorable members, but I have advocated this principle on more than one occasion in South Australia. I shall give some of my reasons for believing that compulsory unionism would secure, or very nearly secure, industrial peace. What is the cause of many, if not most, of the strikes of the present day? Is it. not that non-unionists are working with unionists? Sometimes these non-unionists may be mere contrary individuals who will not join a union. A woman in South Australia told me the other day that she would sooner see her husband and three sons in their graves than she would have them join a union. Sometimes because of mere caprice, and sometimes for sentimental reasons, people will not join a union. Some cannot see the advisableness of joining a union to help themselves and to better their condition. They refuse to do so, and if they are working in some industry in which a number of unionists are engaged industrial strife takes place. Finally, unless the employer steps in, and practically compels them to join a union, a strike occurs. The refusal of a few men to join a union when they are engaged in some calling in which the rest of the workers are unionists brings about morestrikes than does anything of which I know. With compulsory unionism that: would be done away with. The very fact of a person being a wage-earner would mean that he or she must be a member of a union. There could be no such individual as a non-unionist. Then, again, in such circumstances workers would not have thrown at them slurs such as we often hear, but of which I utterly disapprove. They would not have applied to them such a word as “ scabs.” Such expressions are used at the present time, but the trouble does not end there. Some of the less enlightened of the workers go even further and inflict injustice upon the members of the family of the non-unionist. How often do we find them going to the length of showing contempt, perhaps, for the wives, the daughters, or the sons of non-unionists? And yet these men might be nonunionists for reasons for which we must give them credit. They might conscientiously object to join a trade organization just as we have people objecting, on religious grounds, to compulsory military service. From their point of view they are quite justified in refusing to join a union, and, if they are at all sentimental, they are prepared to suffer very gross indignity rather than become unionists. All this would be done away with if we. had compulsory unionism. It may be asked, Why force a person to become a unionist?” “Why force a Quaker to defend Australia?” The religious objection is the strongest of all forces. The members of the Society of Friends, for instance, think .that if they enter the army and shoulder a gun - that even if they are employed in the non-combatant portion of an army - they are endangering their immortal souls. They think, because of the teachings of their church, that, in such circumstances, when they leave this mundane sphere of ours, and reach the other side - whatever that may be- they will suffer for all eternity. At the outside, we are here for only 80, 90, or 100 years, but a member of the Society of Friends thinks that if he enters the army he will suffer torment for all time in the next world. Can any one blame such people if they feel strongly on the subject? If any honorable member implicitly believed that such retribution would be his lot after death - that he would suffer eternal torments for doing something contrary to the doctrines of his church - what would he do in the circumstances? Any man who conscientiously held that belief would be a fool if he refrained from doing all that he possibly could to prevent amy worldly authority from forcing him to bear arms. We must admit that this is the strongest of all sentiments, yet the law of the land says, -“ You must bear arms,” and a man who fails to comply with that law is incarcerated. We in Australia are not so strict as they are in other parts of the world, but we make it impossible for an individual to evade military service.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 7. £5 p.m.
– When we rose for dinner I was pointing out how much improvement there would be in the condition of industrial affairs if there were a law to compel every worker to join a union. I understood the Attorney-General to admit that this was a logical proposal, and, therefore, I hope he will embrace the earliest opportunity to bring in a Bill with the object of effecting this most desirable reform. At the present time many people, who in their hearts do not approve of unionism, are compelled to join trade organizations, and thereby suffer what they feel to be an injustice and indignity. With compulsory unionism all that feeling would disappear. Before the law we are all, theoretically at least, equal; and it would be impossible for a strong unionist to taunt a non-unionist, and, on the other hand, the man who at present is a unionist only by force of circumstances ‘ would feel no outrage to his feelings by having to fall in line with his fellow workers. Many honorable members opposite, Or perhaps all of them, object to this idea on the ground that its realization would merely have the effect of compelling the people who were forced into the unions to subscribe to Labour political organizations and to vote for the Labour party. As to the last-mentioned objection, it is chimerical, because the secret ballot leaves it free to every person to vote as he or she pleases. It would, of course, be unjust to compel people to contribute to any political party in whose policy they did not believe ; but with compulsory unionism we could no more compel people to do this than we can now compel them to contribute to a church or any other religious institution. Of course, I know that there are people in our midst who would be only too pleased if everybody was compelled by law to go to church - and particularly the church to which they themselves belong - and to put nothing less than threepence in the plate every Sunday. There is however, no such law; and with compulsory unionism unionists would not be compelled by other than moral suasion to contribute to any political organization. The Australian Workers Union, for instance, will, in course of time, consist of half-a-million members; and, with compulsory unionism, a ballot could be taken to ascertain how many were willing to contribute towards, say, the Liberal party’s organization. Of course,, we may take it that the great majority would declare for the Labour party, but matters could be arranged so that everybody would feel absolutely certain that not a penny of his money would go towards any political object of which he did not approve. In the present condition of affairs, I say unhesitatingly that it is absolutely essential that preference should be given to unionists, for without preference they would suffer even more than they have in the past. We know that even in Australia, where we are ‘all supposed to be free, victimization goes on where there are no strong unions. I have always set my face against any attempt on the part of the workers to retaliate by means of victimization of employers. Some time ago, at a meeting in a country district of South Australia, some turbulent spirits advocated that a local tradesman, who was against the Labour party, should not have the custom of his political opponents, but I there and then urged that two wrongs did not make a right, and that the proper method was to show the tradesman that he was taking up a wrong position. If that plan were adopted more generally, victimization of the workers would not be in evidence, very long. There is, however, as I say, victimization going on ; and I remember that at a meeting I held in a country place many workers were absolutely afraid to attend to listen to what a Labour man had to say. It is true that they listened, but it was from outside the building; they contented themselves by peeping in at the door like rabbits looking out of a burrow. The reason for this attitude was found in the fact that some of the employers had made it their business to attend the gathering. When I was about to depart by train next morning, a friend of mine said that it was a pity I had not held an out-door meeting, because he had noticed about 150 men who had not had the pluck to enter the hall. He then explained that several of the large employers of the district had been at the meeting, and that this had had the effect of keeping the men outside. I pointed out that if the men had been afraid to attend the indoor meeting, they would have been equally afraid to attend the outdoor meeting; but my friend said, “Not at all; you have a powerful voice, and, as it was a dark night, these men would have listened to you from shady nooks and corners.”
– It is very different in my electorate.
– These matters do not come under the notice of the honorable member as they do under the notice of the Labour member. People, under present circumstances, have to lower themselves in their own self-esteem in order to escape victimization. Of course, if the workers were all of one mind, and boldly demanded their rights, the victimization would cease at once; but, as I say, as things are now, victimization goes on, especially in country districts. I have often noticed that direct victimization of the individual is indulged in. The other day, when I was travelling to Adelaide by train, a contractor in a large way of business, who was in the same carriage, was speaking on the subject of unionism. I know that this gentleman treats his workmen very fairly from a monetary point of view, and does not impose on them any very great tasks ; but what was the attitude of even this well-intentioned person? He told me that when he has a big job on, he makes it his business to go round at the dinner hour; and if he sees one of the men reading a newspaper and explaining the article to his fellows, he calls his ganger and orders that the man shall be got rid of at once. He said to me, “ If people once start, thinking, you never, know where it is going to stop. If they once begin dropping in the poison” - these were his words - “ get rid of them there and then.” When I was in Western Australia the other day, I found that the employers in the sawmilling trade were able to do as they pleased with some of the men who, through no fault of their own, but through, misfortune, were benighted in their views, and unable to help themselves. It is only common sense that people in that position should be shown a better way of living. I am a believer in the divine gospel of discontent, because contentment never made for progress. I do not, of course, favour discontent unsupported by common sense ; but it is the duty of every lover of humanity to show the ignorant that there is something more worth living for than their present miserable existence. It may be that those people are quite happy in what appears to us to be their degradation. I have seen people going into the coal mines in Russia with a carrot and a piece of dry bread for dinner; and it is no wonder, when they leave the mines, that, in their miser)’, they rush to the nearest vodkashop, for that is about the only recreation that they had when I was there, or, so far as I know, that they have now. These people are really children from a social point of view, and should be treated as such. Just as we should call our children from playing in the mud, and point out how much happier they would be on the lawn, so we have to show those people, who have not the common sense and intelligence to see for themselves, how to better their condition without bringing about industrial strife and turmoil. I have for long advocated compulsory unionism - indeed, I believe I am the only one who has done so - as a great step towards the gradual improvement of our present in dustrial and social conditions. We compel people to bear arms. Every law on the statute-book tells people to do, or not to do, something. In the United ‘ Kingdom, and on the Continent of Europe, there is compulsory industrial insurance against unemployment and all kinds of things. Even women assistants in households must bear their share of it, and if it is right to compel people to insure, it is equally right and just to compel every wage-earner to belong to a union, by reason of the fact that he or she is a wage-earner. Compulsory unionism would not only have undoubted advantages for the workers, but it would also be to the welfare and general wellbeing of the community. For instance, the cost of unionism would be much less. If there are 5,000 workers in a certain industry, and half of them, as they may
Mr. Dankel. do under the present non compulsory unionism, decline to belong to the union embracing the other half of those engaged in the industry, it not only brings about’ discontent, but it makes the union dues fall more heavily on the individuals comprising the union. Subscriptions to unions’ funds would not be, under compulsory unionism, a tenth part of the money necessary to be subscribed under the existing conditions, because there would only be secretaries to pay, and there would not be the need to employ the hosts of other officials that, unfortunately, the unions are now compelled to have in order to get members and keep going. Our friends opposite object to the organizers employed by unions, and contend that men should be left alone, and allowed to please themselves about joining a union; but as there can be no progress without organizing, necessarily the unions must employ these men, even though it runs away with a certain amount of money. All this expense would be a thing of the past with compulsory unionism, and on that score the dues to be paid by. the workers would be infinitesimal in comparison with what they are now. The objection is raised that some unions make it next to impossible for new members to join by making the entrance fees too high. I do not know whether there is any truth in the assertion, but I was told that one union charged new members ?20. I was also told the other day by a man in the train that the Townsville Wharf Labourers Union is charging new members ?50, making it manifestly impossible for any working man to enter that union. I have not ascertained whether that statement is correct, but if it is true, these heavy entrance fees are imposed in order to protect the unions from a financial point of view. It must be remembered that these organizations commenced operations many years ago, and their older members have paid large sums to Bring them to their present financial position. The members of the Port Adelaide Working Men’s Union have, for many years past, regularly contributed to the union through weekly payments, and levies, and special calls on the death of members. Some members of this organization, which is now fairly wealthy as unions go, have paid in hundreds of pounds, and naturally they contend, as the older members of a lodge would contend, that a heavy entrance fee should be charged to those who wish to partake of all the benefits the union can give them. In fact, they would be doing wrong if they did not act in such a way. That is the explanation of some of the high dues which may be demanded by unions in Australia, but all that sort of thing would absolutely disappear with compulsory unionism. Here in Australia where we have a compact continent, populated by the same class of people, to all intents and purposes, it would be, comparatively speaking, easy to bring about compulsory unionism, whereas in other parts of the world the task would be much more difficult. Of course, in unions there are at times some bellicose spirits, but for the most part their members are people of peace, who do not desire strife, turmoil, and anarchism. The Labour party stand for industrial peace. They are the only party in Australia standing for industrial peace, and anxious to do away with strife and strikes. It is our opponents who are the anarchists of Australia, because by preventing the workers having their legitimate demands seen to they bring about a spirit of antagonism and class hatred such as is in evidence even in this House.
– Unions are responsible for that.
– That is not the case. There will be none of it if the unions are given the opportunity of having their grievances redressed before a properly constituted tribunal. At present a case cannot be settled for, perhaps, three years, as is the case with the Tramway Unions. The bootmakers had to spend three or four thousand pounds before getting a verdict. Would not the honorable member for Echuca get sick of the delays of the law if over a case of his he were kept dillydallying for three years? Would not the honorable member far rather choose to use his own strength instead of obeying the law of the land? The people are beginning to see this now, and I feel sure that the next time the referendum is put to them it will be carried. The abolition of preference to unionists in the Government service would bring about a bad feeling among the workers employed by the Commonwealth. Those not belonging to unions might be taunted by those belonging to unions, or the non-unionists might boast about being free and independent persons, and thus make the unionists feel not too kindly disposed towards them. However, I am afraid that while the Conservatives are in power there will be no preference to unionists - it will be preference to non-unionists such as many private employers impose in those avocations where there is little unionism. In the case of warehouse employes and clerks, among whom unionism is not so fully developed as I am sure it will be in the course of time, the employers practically tyrannize the employes, and the man who belongs to a union, or intends to belong to one, is dismissed. The other day a man, not an organizer, but one interested in unionism, went into an office in Adelaide and spoke to the girl typist, eighteen years of age. One of the girl’s employers heard this man asking her whether she had any intention of belonging to a union, and, calling her to him afterwards, he told her that if she joined a union she would have to go out of the office. That sort of thing can take place under the present system. It is compulsory nonunionism, and is a great deal worse than having a law to compel people to belong to a union would be. Civilization is so complex now that we must have complex laws. In past centuries the people did not understand enough to feel the need for legislation in this respect. Less than 100 years ago it was as much as a man’s liberty was worth to try to form a trade union. People were deported to New South Wales and Tasmania, where I saw, the other day, those dreadful instruments of torture used in the early days in connexion with convicts. They were deported for terras of not less than seven years for trying to help themselves and their fellows by improving their social and industrial conditions. That took place even during the reign of the late Queen Victoria. In those days people thought that if the workers had any education it would be a bad thing. The statement was - it was not an argument - that if the workers had too much education no one would do the dirty work. The absence of universal education brings about the idea of there being degradation in doing any kind of manual labour. The attribute “ degrading “ in respect of work, however, will disappear from our dictionary in course of time ; “ menial occupation” also is a phrase that will disappear, and the only people who will be looked up to will be those who do honest toil of some kind or another. The laws must be made to meet individual cases as they arise, instead of remaining general as in the days gone by, and as some political economists still think they should be. That is the view of the laissez faire school, the old Manchester doctrine. Tempora mutanatur nos et mutamur in Mis. We must change with the times, or the times will push us along willy nilly. As the AttorneyGeneral said, when speaking at Nhill on the 12th March last, this Bill is to be introduced to bring about a double dissolution. I must not touch on the prerogative of the King’s representative, who is now on his way to Australia, and no one knows how’ he will decide this matter, but I doubt that he will grant a double dissolution if these trumpery measures are rejected by the Senate. They are not trumpery from the Government point of view, but in the eyes of Labour members and of the Labour press of Australia, which, unfortunately, is not yet very strong, although it will, in the days to come, be of dominating power. The Melbourne Punch, which is a long way from being a Labour organ, has ridiculed the idea of it being possible to secure a double dissolution by means of these so-called test measures. Of the two, the Bill to prohibit preference to unionists is .the more important. As to the postal voting, the difference of opinion between the two parties is so trifling as to have no weight at all. The Liberal party sets great store by the measure which it is now sought to introduce. Members opposite think that the Bill may bring about a double dissolution, and that if it does it will provide them with a ripping good cry for the election. Used by a skilful rhetorician it would do so.
– Used by a good liar !
– Yes. The real truth would not be told. The Bill affects very few persons, but the attempt will be made to persuade the people that a grand principle is involved. To bring a great principle into issue, members opposite should declare against all preference to unionists, whether in the Courts of Law or elsewhere. No doubt, if the Liberals were in a majority, there would be no preference to unionists; it would everywhere be a thing of the past. But what would be the consequence? The honorable member for Wakefield on one occasion told the people of South Australia that if the referendum were carried, and the Labour party got into power, Australia would see a time like that of the French Revolution, and blood would flow down the gutters of Adelaide. That would not have happened ; but something like it might easily happen if the party in power repealed the portion of beneficent industrial legislation that the people now enjoy. That would create widespread discontent, so that the organizer would have a good soil to work upon, and it would be easy to work up a revolutionary spirit. I ask our friends opposite to be wise in their day and generation, and to provide against that. Our mission, above all things, is to provide for peaceful evolution and progress, so that the generations to come may have better and more equal opportunities, and may lead a life worth living, which many persons cannot do now. It is our duty to prepare the way for the Australia that is to be. We all say that we do not care whether there is to be a dissolution or not; but I do not mind admitting that for personal reasons I do not desire a dissolution. I am afraid, too, that another election would not be a solution of our trouble, except if the party on this side gets back into power, and Australia would again have the progressive and common-sense administration which she enjoyed during the three years prior to 31st May last.
.- The question under consideration is of such importance that I must attempt to apply myself to it in a humble way, though I shall not waste the time of the House with any extended utterance. When the Minister in charge of the Bill has explained its provisions in his secondreading speech, I hope to be able to make a reply from the stand-point of a working man’s advocate. Why preference prohibition ? Does the Leader of the House recognise that preference is given at all times to those who are organized and stand shoulder to shoulder, upholding law and order. The leader of my party said to-day, “ We must organize, organize, organize.” We must not alone do that ; we must also educate, educate, and educate. The essence of our Public Service is organization, yet honorable gentlemen opposite desire that a section of it shall not be organized in the way that we wish. All those in the Public Service are organized and under the control of the Public Service Commissioner; but when we ask that preference be given to organized men who wish to join the Service, honorable members opposite say that it should not be given. Every man in the Public Service to-day is getting preference because of some qualification he possesses that makes him better fitted for his work than those outside. We say that every unionist belonging to an organized trade or industry is more closely related to that trade and industry than a man who is a ‘non-unionist, and that it is to the advantage of the community to give such men the preference as against the non-unionists who are disorganized, undisciplined, and not associated with their fellows. Does the AttorneyGeneral desire to have under his control unorganized individuals, so that he or his officers may do with them as he pleases, as he did with another set of men some years ago in Victoria? Why should he object to preference to men who are organized and prepared to observe law and order? He is a pleader for law and order, and so are we in this immediate issue. Yet he has the audacity to say to those who are combined in the field of unionism that they shall not have preference as against disorganized men. Will it not conduce to the well-being of the community if those who are organized are given the preference that we ask for? Some years ago, when leader of the State House, the Attorney-General stated that men could not be allowed to stop the wheels of progress. That is what he said when the railway strike was on. We remember how effectively he dealt with the situation which occurred then. Now he is seeking to stop the wheels of progress in connexion with our industrial development. He cannot do it. He may do it if he carries his Bill through, but he will not carry it without a fight from one end of Australia to the other. If the honorable member places his Bill on the table in order to frighten us, we will kick it under his feet, and fight him for all he is worth. We are ready to take up his challenge.
I am sorry I have to disagree with the honorable member for Boothby in regard to compulsory unionism. I am prepared to see compulsion in connexion with unionism, just as we have compulsion in every phase of our social life; but the honorable member is mistaken when he says that compulsion means industrial peace. t I want peace if I can get it; but I want industrial organization and compulsory unionism that will bring our people so closely together that we will be ready for political warfare whenever it arises. I am not so much concerned about peace; there is no possibility of peace while there is wrong in the world. As a Labour party, we are here to rectify wrongs, and if we cannot rectify them, we have no right to be here. Therefore, I differ from the honorable member for Boothby when he says we are here to obtain industrial peace by compulsory unionism. No man desires more than I do peace and agreement in regard to our industrial difficulties; but I am not here to make peace at any price. I am here to fight, if fight be necessary, and I will not stand by the honorable member in saying that compulsory unionism will bring us peace. If we can obtain peace, well and good, but if we cannot, I will take compulsory unionism as a means of consolidating the industrial forces, in order to fight those who sit on the Government side. That is plain talk; it is what I mean, and what I hope my fellow members on this side of the House mean. What have the Government done in regard to preference to unionists? Have they not done already what they desire to do 1 They have, by administrative action, rescinded all that the Labour Government did by administrative action. Did we pass a Bill to impose on the country preference to unionists?
– You did it without a Bill.
– And the Government have done the same thing without a Bill, and then, like fools, they bring in a Bill. For what purpose? What is the game?
– To block your party manipulating the Public Service.
– I guess that the manipulation is on the Government side. I do not manipulate the Government service, and will not attempt to do so ; and I am sure honorable members on this side of the House do not intend to. A great issue is supposed to arise in connexion with this question of preference to unionists in the Government service. But it is unnecessary for me to traverse all that has been said; the whole question has been threshed out. How many people are involved? A few thousand individuals in the Public Service of the Commonwealth out of a total population of about 5,000,000. Yet that keen-brained gentleman and Leader of the Ministry, the Attorney- General, a reputed great authority on constitutional law, is to-day utilizing that petty little situation in order to build upon it a constitutional crisis, and an appeal to the country by a double dissolution. A single dissolution will not suit the honorable gentleman; he must have two chances for his money. The honorable member for Parkes said that we on this side also want two chances; so we do ; we want twenty-two chances. Are we to understand that the Government are lacking in force and in reasons for attack upon our party and what we have done that they have to resort to a double dissolution on a question of preferenceto unionists, involving a few thousand men, in the hope of achieving some victory at the polls ? How great ! What keenness; what understanding is behind such a suggestion ! And forsooth, upon such a proposition as this the Government will ask for a dissolution of both Houses ! Who created Parliament as it is constituted to-day ? Was it the Labour party, or was it the Government and their forebears, who thinking that the hob-nail boots of Labour could not enter the Senate, adopted the Constitution which they are now so anxious to amend ?
-That is what they said.
– Yes; Sir William McMillan said that the Senate was the “blue ribbon of political life,” a place where the hob-nails of Labour could not enter, and to which he could retire after his work in the House of Representatives was done. Who created the Constitution, I ask again ? They were not Labour men. Who were the men who fought against the present Constitution? They were the Labour men throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The Conservatives succeeded; but to-day, when we, by our determination and organization, have possession of the Senate, and hold it as a Labour House, our opponents are cry ing out for an alteration of the Constitution. When we asked them for an alteration of the Constitution on lines that would conduce to the interests of Australia, they would not agree to it. No; the referenda proposals were damned by them. They fought tooth and nail against the proposed amendments of the Constitution; but now, when they are asking for something which they imagine will help them to a conservation of their Conservative privileges, they ask for an amendment of the Constitution, and they would throw that sacrosanct document, which is almost the Bible of the Australian people, to the wind. They would deal with it as they please, and alter it to meet their own immediate ends. They may or they may not; it all depends. We are ready to fight at any time for an alteration of the Constitution that will help this side of the House, and not the other side. I say that deliberately. I am out for that every time; and I am quite prepared to have an alteration of the Constitution, after a referendum of the people, that will enlarge the powers we have, and which the Government will begin to recognise should be enlarged. The debates in the House during the past few days have proved that the Ministerial party are beginning to bow their heads to the facts; they are either too blind to see, or too much interested to deal with them. In conclusion, I wish to enter my protest against the introduction of this Bill. No more shameful proposal has ever come from any Administration than is manifest in the attempt to introduce a Bill of this nature. I speak of unionism with heart-love and respect’, and I speak ofpreference to unionists as an essential principle, which no man in the House dare attempt to kill without my voice and effort being arrayed against him. Preference to unionists means organization of the industrial world ; it means putting those men on a safe and certain basis. We propose to exclude no one. Every man can join a union, and become a unit in a great party that will ultimately take its part in the fight that must take place. There is no getting away from the fact that on the one hand is organized labour, and on the other hand is organized capital. The two will not assimilate, and cannot assimilate, and a fight will come - come, I hope, by intelligence and intellect, but come as best it may. Carlyle, when asked in regard to the French Revolution how many revolutions there would be, whether one or more, answered, “ There will be just as many as are necessary.” That is the position in which we stand to-day; and 1 urge the Ministerial members not to take the step they propose, because it will only mean that the moment they do so our cohorts will come together; we shall be welded in one great fighting mass. If we meet our Waterloo, we will come again ; if the Government meet theirs, they will be done for all time.
.- The Attorney-General has moved for leave to introduce a Bill entitled “ The Government Pref erence Prohibition Bill,” and although it has not yet been placed in the hands of honorable members, we know perfectly well that it is the selfsame measure that was before the House last session. This Bill, on the face of it, is a fraud and a sham.
– Order ! The use of such an expression has already been ruled out of order several times.
– The Bill, if it is not a fraud, is certainly a delusion.
– It is a delusion and a snare. It purports to do something which those who are putting it forward know perfectly well it does not do. They know full well that everything that it could do has already been done. They tell us that they desire to go on with the business of the country; yet they put before us a Bill which is designed to bring about a dissolution, and so to prevent business being done in this House - a Bill which seeks to have business done in some House other than that at present constituted. That being so, the introduction of this Bill is an indication that the Government have no desire to do the business for which the country is calling. The Government are not anxious to advance the business of the country one iota, and are really extending to us an invitation to take up time in discussing this measure. The only object they have in view is to secure the immediate dissolution of both Houses. If we on this side are not agreeable to that - if, in other words, we do not desire immediately to send to the country the members of the Senate, where we have twenty-nine, as against seven on the Liberal side - then we have in the proposal now before us an invitation to adopt any tactics that will delay business. If the Government had brought forward business that the country desires should be transacted - if, for instance, they had submitted a scheme for some developmental work in which both parties could join - then, I venture to say, there would have been a whole-souled effort made on this side to have it passed. But when the Government refuse to do anything of the kind, when they simply come down to the House with a proposal to dissolve the Parliament, we can come to no other conclusion than that they have no wish to transact any business of national importance. Their desire really is to transact business of party importance - business which will give their political party some advantage. They do not wish to advance the interests of the nation.
This Bill is also designed to supply them with an election cry which will enable them to misrepresent their opponents, and to create in the minds of the people a belief that there is some danger to be feared which does not actually exist. The Bill, in short, is something like the scarecrow which the farmer places over his crop. The Ministerial party are notorious for their scarecrows. At an election held some time ago, when they saw that the party opposed to them was growing in numbers and increasing in influence they put up the scarecrow of Socialism. Sir George - then Mr. - Reid toured the country with the scarecrow of Socialism at the end of a stick. Every one was told to beware of it. Mothers were warned that with this Socialism they might have their children taken from them, whilst the people were told also that the sanctity of the marriage tie was to be ignored. We faced that scarcecrow fairly and squarely and succeeded in laying it in the dust. Then they came along with scarecrows of other kinds. To-day they tell us that they are seeking a dissolution so that they may go to the constituencies, and, at the same time, they are seeking for something by which they can misrepresent the situation to the people and put up yet another scarecrow. The public mind is such that, where the citizens do not thoroughly grasp the situation, they are influenced by these scarecrows, and by the time they see through one, yet another is invented. In this respect the Government are resorting to the same old dodge which the farmer plays on the parrots that hover over his orchard. In the first place, the farmer puts up a stick with a cross piece on which he hangs a coat. The birds that are after his cherries fly over it a few times and, having looked at it carefully, conclude that it is only a scarecrow and come down and have their feed of fruit. Then the farmer says, “ I must change my scarecrow, I must make it resemble a man.-“ Taking some straw from his stack he makes up the figure of a man, paints a face on it, and surmounts it with a hat, and, fastening it to a pole, sets it up. The same old birds which had dropped to his device of a few days before are thus scared off once more. They perch on the trees near by and finally come to the conclusion that this is only another scarecrow. The farmer, however, has only to resort two or three times to this dodge and he has his crop garnered. And so with our opponents. They put up a scarecrow and the public at the beginning are fooled by it. Before they can see through the device the election is over and the scarecrow has served its purpose. When the next election comes along up goes another scarecrow. . The people who do not understand the situation are afraid of it, and it serves its purpose. That is what the Government are doing in this case.
Before the Prime Minister came into this House - when he was pursuing his candidature in the country - he misrepresented the position, and it is being misrepresented to-day. It was misrepresented a few days ago by the Minister of Trade and Customs in the local press, and it has been misrepresented to-night by the honorable member for Wannon. I propose to quote from the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister, Mr. Joseph Cook.
– Policy speech?.
– It is a speech delivered by Mr. Joseph Cook at Parramatta and reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 4th April, 1913. It was supposed to be a policy speech made by him on behalf of the party he was leading. Under the heading of “ Public Service Appointments “ there is in it this statement -
Liberalism arrays itself against the principle obtaining to-day in Government employment by means of which the citizens of Australia, are classified, and political opponents declared ineligible for Government employment because of their political creed.
That is a misrepresentation. The only preference that was given was in connexion with what is known as the daylabour system. It was given in connexion with temporary employes and applied only to those employed on what are known as public works in the Department of Home Affairs, on the railways, and in connexion with the building of the Federal Capital. Outside of that, there was no suggestion of any interference with employment; and yet Mr. Joseph Cook was leading his hearers to believe that this preference affected the whole Public Service. The Minister of Trade and Customs, Mr. Groom, did the same thing the other day. He led the people to believe that it affected the Public Service as a whole, and the honorable member for Wannon, by interjection tonight, has suggested that this preference was an interference with the Public Service generally.
Before the Labour party entered the political arena, what was the position? Liberals kept their seats in Parliament because of the number of jobs they were able to find for their political supporters. Labour had no representation in Parliament. We were dependent upon the Conservative party, then divided into Free Traders and Protectionists, when we made the demand that appointments to the Public Service should be by public examination, and that fitness, and not social influence, should be the only test.
– How many years ago was that?
– That does not matter. What I say is perfectly true. I remember it well, although I have not the exact date at hand.
– The honorable member was in our party then, was he not ?
– The Honorary Minister was in pinafores.
– That is the point I am making. The honorable member for Cook was in our party then.
– The honorable member is one of a Cabinet which is seeking for this electioneering cry to misrepresent the people. He comes here with a lie on his lips, just as he is seeking in another way to misrepresent-
– Bless my soul-
– Whether the honorable member’s soul is blessed or cursed, I propose to make my speech in my own way. Let the Honorary Minister attend to his own business, and I will attend to raine.
– The honorable member does not like it.
– The statement is a misrepresentation. The honorable member is very cute; but he is not going to side-track me. What is being done in connexion with this Bill ? The Liberal speakers - the anti-Labourites - are telling the people that we desire to interfere with appointments to the Public Service. The mother of a smart boy who is winning his bursaries and going to the University is told by them that educational qualification is no longer to be the test of admission to the Public Service; that the Labour party have abolished it. The Prime Minister, Mr. Joseph Cook, said that the Labour party had abolished it, and would stand by its abolition if it was returned. He told the people that, instead of educational qualifications being the test for employment in the Public Service, every youth or young woman seeking to enter it would have to belong to some industrial organization. In a great many instances there would be no industrial organization to which these young people could belong, and the impression would consequently be given throughout the country that these boys and girls would be excluded from the Commonwealth Service. That is one of the objects of this Bill.
This is no real dispute between two Houses on bond fide legislation. This Bill raises a bogy, an invented and unreal thing. It is sought by this means to bring about a conflict with the Senate, and thus secure a double dissolution - not to advance the interests - of the people, but to serve the temporary exigencies of party political warfare. In- . deed, this has been admitted, for in the Governor-General’s Speech on the 9 th July, 1913, nearly twelve months ago, the following words were placed in the mouth of His Excellency: -
Ministers are opposed to any preference or favoritism in the Public Service, and have already taken steps to provide that competency and merit shall be the sole basis of employment and preferment on the public works and in the services of the Commonwealth.
Yet we find the Government in 1914 introducing a Bill to carry out a policy to which they gave effect twelve months ago. It is an absolute farce. There never has been any interference with the oldestablished rule of entrance by examination, apart from public works; and yet this falsehood, for it is nothing less, is put into the mouth of the Governor-General and published to the country.
– The honorable member will see that he is imputing something of a dishonorable nature to Ministers, and that, under the Standing Orders, he has no right to do.
– If you direct me, Mr. Speaker, to withdraw the words I shall do so. It is fortunate that outside we are able to give those tactics their proper name. If Ministers do things which outside would be called dishonorable, but which the Standing Orders prevent my describing as dishonorable inside, I am compelled to obey your ruling. The speech of the Prime Minister at Parramatta on 4th April, 1913, proceeds -
The very essence of civilized government is the equal treatment of all the citizens of the country. There should be only one door of entrance, and that always standing wide open to the public service, and one passport at the door, namely, merit and ability to perform the service sought. Whatever arrangements may be made outside for the granting of judicial preference, conditioned by the circumstances in which it is given, the enactment of absolute preference by the Government is a complete negation of the principle of equal citizenship. No citizen is allowed to escape his responsibilities, and no citizen should he debarred from bis corresponding privileges. Equal opportunities should surely prevail in the Governmentemployment, if anywhere at all. The present system by which the Government service is being packed with political partisans should be ended as early as possible.
That is not a fact.
– It is no longer a fact.
– The Honorary Minister knows perfectly well that it was not a fact when uttered, and that it never was a fact. In the same speech is another wild, reckless misrepresentation -
To-day the principle of “ spoils to the victors “ is in vogue from the office boy to the highest administrative positions in the service.
It is marvellous that a statement like that could be palmed off on an audience of ordinary intelligent Australian citizens; but, made by a public man in an authoritative position, wild and reckless as the statement is, it is believed by some people.
I do not fear the issue of preference to unionists, but I do fear the misrepresentations of the party opposite. The Liberal party have tremendous funds at their disposal, with Liberal organizers at every door, and millions of newspapers to carry their misrepresentations throughout Australia ; and these facts do give me some ground for fear. There can, however, be no denial of the facts I have stated.
The honorable member for Wannon interjected to-night to the effect that this Bill is intended to stop honorable members on this side “ from manipulating the Public Service “ ; but the honorable member knows perfectly well in his heart that it is nothing of the kind, for everything that the Bill can do has already been done. Even if the Bill be passed, and the present Government, at the next election, are again placed in control, they will be in no different position then from that in which they are to-day without the Bill, because they have prevented, and can by administrative act prevent, preference to unionists. On the other hand, if they are defeated at the polls, the succeeding Government may wipe out this legislation just as fast as the forms of the House will allow; and we shall be exactly as we were before. From every point of view this measure is nothing less than - well, the Standing Orders do not permit me to use the only English that can be employed to properly describe it.
– I shall give the honorable member the phrase - ripe legislation.
– It is over-ripe to bursting, and the smell of it can be detected from one end of Australia to the other.
There is another aspect of the matter that is worthy of consideration. If the Government, for instance, in the construction of the transcontinental line, found that certain work could be performed only by making terms with a union which included preference to members of that organization, it would be in the public interest that they should be able to do so. Yet they introduce this Bill to tie their own hands, and prevent them entering into an agreement with an organization, when probably circumstances might render it absolutely necessary. The only case in which this Bill can have any operation whatever is such as I have cited ; and, as a matter of fact, I think a situation of the kind has already arisen. In the South Australian Herald of the 24th April this year, there appears the following:
Mr. P. W. Lundie, secretary of the South Australian Branch of the A.W.U., has received the agreement which has been entered into between the branch and the Home Affairs Department of the Commonwealth Government regarding the wages to be paid to the men constructing the Transcontinental Railway. The rates of pay will govern those working from the 50-mile peg to and including Tarcoola yards. The agreement will be binding only as regards members of the union and the classes of work organized by that organization, and it shall only apply on work done by the Department itself, and not to any contract work. It shall come into force immediately, and shall be retrospective as from 1st April…..
Then follow the rates of pay. I have made inquiries, and I have word from the secretary that the agreement referred to has been signed on behalf of the Commonwealth, and is now in active operation. Now, if this Bill be carried, the Government will not be able to enter into such an agreement, although they may believe it to be necessary. The rate of pay is attached to the agreement, but I have not quoted it, because it is not so much to the point. We have here preference to unionists of the most extreme type I have ever seen, and I have been connected with unions for a number of years. The rate of wages set down is not to be paid to any but members of the union. If a non-unionist goes there to work he is not entitled to that rate, and if he gets it it is not because of the agreement, but as a matter of grace. This is preference to unionists and compulsory unionism combined.
– I should read the paragraph again if I were the honorable member !
– I notice that the Honorary Minister, who is in charge of this work, does not deny the statements, and they are such music to his ears that he would like them read again.’ I have no doubt that the paragraph will beread a good many times before the campaign is over, but as the Honorary Minister desires, I do not see why I should not repeat it now.
– The honorable member has already read the paragraph, and he would not be in order in reading it again.
– I am sorry that that is your ruling, Mr. Speaker, because the Honorary Minister apparently would like to commit the paragraph to memory. At any rate, it is a piece of news which brands this legislation for what it really is - a piece of political make-believe and political buffoonery.
I should now like to say a word or two as to the attitude of the Prime Minister himself in regard to preference to unionists. Last session, when the matter was under consideration, I quoted from a speech by the Prime Minister, made inthe New South Wales Parliament, on , 2nd August, 1900, just before he became a member of this House. There has never been a more effective speech in defence of the great principle of preference to unionists than that made by Mr. Joseph Cook on the 2nd August, 1900. Even the brilliant ex-Attorney-General has not made a stronger speech upon this great principle. It has to be remembered that at this time the honorable gentleman had deserted the Labour party who put him into Parliament, and had already been a Minister in a Liberal Administration, and he was giving his opinion on preference to unionists as a Liberal. There could be nothing more emphatic. That was in 1900. We had another speech on the same subject from the honorable gentleman in 1904. He is reported on page 7846 of the Commonwealth Hansard for 1904 to have said in this Chamber -
The honorable member for Newcastle referred to me as an old-time secretary of a trade union. The honorable member is quite right. When I was secretary to a union we always insisted on preference to unionists, and in a very summary fashion.
– What was the union?
– The Coal Miners’ Union. We had no difficulty in doing that; and I am free to tell the honorable member that if I were in the same position to-day I should do the same again.
Then in answer to a question as to how long he was secretary of this union, he said- -
For some years. If I were in that position again I should adopt the same attitude. I have no sort of sympathy with the man who will work alongside another man and see that other paying every week of his life into an organization to protect his rights and to maintain his position whilst he himself is skulking, and deriving the benefits for which the other is paying and working. I have no sort of sympathy with that kind of thing.
That is how in 1904 the present Prime Minister described non-unionists. He described them as a lot of skulkers. And it seems quite appropriate that the honorable gentleman, who has espoused every political cause that has ever been before the public, should now wheel right round to the opposite position and lead the forces of anti-unionism, forces that are being directed, and whose funds are provided, by the employers’ organizations in an effort to strangle the principle of preference to unionists. After all, while the measure before us to-day is the sham that it has been shown to be–
– Order !
– If that is an unparliamentary expression, I withdraw it. I shall call the Bill an unsubstantial thing, an unreal thing, a mythical measure. We know what Ministers would do if they could, because in their policy statement in the Governor-General’s Speech of July, 1913, they said -
It is proposed to amend the law relating to conciliation and arbitration in such a way as to prohibit preference being granted by the Court to members of any organization, any part of whose funds are directly or indirectly applicable to political purposes; and also to restore the exemption of rural workers from the operation of the Act, believing that the conditions of their employment ought to be left to the States.
That is what they would do if they had the courage to do it, but they have not the courage, and they have gone back on what they said they would do, and come along with this mythical measure by which they will lead the people to believe that they have done the other thing, and will misrepresent the qualifications for entrance to the Public Service. I have no doubt that if this kind of political pea-and-thimble rigging has the desired result, and Ministers come back with a sufficient majority to give effect to what they desire to do, there will be a general attack on the organized workers of Australia.
They talk about the unions using funds for political purposes. Is there anything in the objects of any union which is not the subject of political intervention? The movement for shorter working hours, which is incorporated in the members and the public to take notice of political action. The minimum wage question and the establishment of arbitration tribunals to decide every condition of service in any employment are subject-matters of political action; but, according to honorable members opposite, thousands of men who supply their weekly pence for the purpose of advancing the objects of their unions are not’ to use any of their funds for the purpose of assisting to “bring those objects into force in a constitutional way. Apparently the only way in which they are to use their funds is tq support a strike, or to break the industrial peace. If they seek constitutional methods to have legislation passed, and if they have agitations with that object, they are to be deprived of preference even at the hands of the High Court Judge, though he may think that they have put forth such a case as, in the interests of the community, to warrant their having preference.
The present Prime Minister has been driven from one point to the other on this question « of preference to unionists, and when he is bailed up in the corner, what does he say ? He does not say that he has gone back on his opinions. Speaking on the 12th June, 1912, at Lithgow, the town which gave him political birth - and this brings me a little further up-to-date - he is reported to have said -
He believed in having his own opinion, and would not allow any caucus to think for him or come between him and his constituents.’ He had not altered his position; the others had done the jumping round, and now imagined he had.
It must be remembered that he was speaking at Lithgow, in the midst of a great industrial district, a great union district, and he was explaining to this district, which had put him in Parliament at the very beginning, which had practically taken him from the coal pit and given him political birth, that he had never done any jumping round, but still held to his opinions, and that others had done the jumping. Later on, when he was asked how he justified his attitude in reference to preference to unionists, and as to why he believed in preference to unionists formerly, and was now taking steps against it, he explained - I have not the reference with me - that the unionism of to-day was different from the unionism with which he was engaged when they enforced preference to unionists; that the unions of to-day had political objects, and used some of their funds in advancing those political objects, whereas in the days to which he referred the unions were purely industrial, and compelled preference to unionists in a purely industrial way. During the recess I have been looking up a little more of the history of the Prime Minister, and now I am in a position to show that the preference to unionists he sought for was preference to Labour bodies taking an active part in politics. In Lithgow it was Mr. Joseph Cook who went to the unions and invited them to come together for the purpose of electing a member of Parliament and taking political action. The following letter, which was written by him, I wish to have placed in the pages of Hansard, where the public can have access to it. It is as follows: -
Having regard to a communication which recently appeared in the daily press purporting to have been written by the secretary of the Drivers’ and Firemen’s Association to the Trades and Labour Council, suggesting the fusion of the Labour forces of the district, with a view to returning a representative to Parliament whose sympathies should be entirely with the worker, I am directed by my delegate board to submit for your consideration the following proposition : - That two (2) representatives from each Labour organization of the Hartley district meet, at a time and place to be hereafter arranged, for the purpose of taking the necessary steps for the return of a Labour candidate at the next general election.
The need for this has been emphasized by the unsympathetic, and actively hostile attitude assumed, by our present member throughout the long and wasting strike, in the midst of which our own organization is plunged at the present time. During the present crisis, Mr. Hurley has not failed whenever the opportunity presented itself to declaim against the tyranny and unrighteousness of the methods of our procedure, as well as having gone out of his way to be brutally offensive towards those members upon whom only we can rely to furnish us with the means of voicing our complaints in the Parliament of the country. Not only so, but very recently Mr. Hurley gave expression to words in the House which can only be construed as containing a direct challenge to the Labour organizations of this district. Furthermore, since the commencement of the present struggle Mr. Hurley has never evinced the slightest desire to help in any way those of his constituents and supporters whose fortunes have been so adversely affected by the continuance of the strike, and, indeed, has shown in every possible way and manner the strong sympathy with those who in this struggle must be regarded as the’ opponents r.f trade unionism. In view, therefore, of the unquestionable attitude taken up by Mr. Hurley with respect to the progressive developments of the Labour forces of this colony, my Board is anxious to express its cordial agreement with the action taken by the Drivers and Firemen’s Association, and urge the earnest consideration of the above proposition as the best means of giving effect to that sympathy which exists amongst the various workers of the Colony, and which can only find fitting expression in that unity of action which shall secure to us direct representation in the Parliament of this Colony.
Hoping you will give the ‘matter your best attention, and do me the favour of an early reply. (Sgd.) Jos. Cook,
Miners’ General Secretary.
This shows Mr. Joseph Cook as the very gentleman who, at the time when the unions were not taking part in the politics of the country, urged them to do the very thing for doing which he now seeks to penalize them, and yet he says it is honorable members of the Opposition who have done the jumping round, and that he has not altered his opinions from the time he was taken from the coal pit and put into Parliament. He is like the man who goes about and says that everybody else is mad, and he is the only sane man. We generally take such a man to the reception house, and have him examined at once. I have shown these statements of the Prime Minister from the time he first entered the New South Wales Parliament, in 1890, to 1900, when he gave forth his faith in regard to preference to unionists in as strong a speech as could be produced on a floor of a Parliament, and had the proofs of the report presented to him the next day, and went over them with a pen to see that they were correctly registered, in the imperishable records of the country, his opinion on this great question. In 1904, as a member of this House, he advocated preference to unionists; and in 1912 he went back to his old district, and told the people there that others had jumped round, but that he had not, his beliefs being the same as they had always been. But a year later he put a passage into the Speech of the GovernorGeneral which shows that he would, if he could, annihilate the unions of Australia, so far as this vital principle is concerned; and again now he is engaged in this unworthy attempt, although it is attempted in an indirect and stealthy way.
The Prime Minister, in the speech from which I have quoted, recognised the need for preference to unionists, and stated what is known to be a fact by all connected with industrial organizations, that the alternative to preference to unionists is preference to non-unionists, the encouragement of those who will not join organizations, whom he has characterized as the “ skulkers of society.” The employers are in business for the purpose of making money, and the unionists, by banding together, lessen profits. By concerted action, they compel employers to pay more than they would “pay to individual workers, bargaining each for himself. The employers know that they cannot deal with an organized body of 1,000 or 5,000 men as they could with an individual who did not belong to a union. When the individual who is not in a union asks an employer for work, the employer says, “ How much do you want?” One man replies ” £2 a. week,” another “ 35s.,” and a third, perhaps, “ 30s.” ; and the employer takes the cheapest. These figures will serve to illustrate the practice. You can read in the newspapers every day advertisements asking applicants for positions to state the wages required. When men are disorganized, out of work, hungry, with the cupboard at home bare, they will cut each other’s throats to get work. I do not blame the employers altogether; they are not in business for benevolent reasons. They are not in business to give the highest wages they can. Their object is to obtain a competency for themselves; and, consequently, when of two applicants one offers his services for 10s. a week less than the other, he is taken on if he can do the work required to he done.
But employes who are members of unions cannot be dealt with individually. These combinations of workers say, “ We need so much a week to pay our rent and to keep our wives and families,” and they fix a minimum wage, and will not accept anything less for their services. Naturally, the employers as a body seek to discourage the organization of workmen who are banded together to secure the advantages of collective bargaining. For this reason, employers give preference to non-unionists, that being the only alternative to preference to unionists.
The employers are now organizing all over Australia. They say, “ We must band ourselves together in bigger battalions, so that we may be able to face the opposing armies of workers.” Realizing that unionism is a menace to their profits, they naturally do what they can to discourage it by giving employment to those who are not unionists’. They are even creating organizations to do this. There is in Victoria a Liberal Workers Club, or Independent Workers Federation.. The honorable member for Ballarat produced a letter from the secretary of that organization, written to the Tramway Company of Ballarat, in which it was stated that he had workmen prepared to accept lowerrates than were being demanded by the union workmen. This organization has been proved to be a union-smashing organization, subsidized by the employers; and the other day the Prime Minister, having a few words to address to the country, attended one of its meetings, and to give his blessing on its unionsmashing business. The desire of the employers to oppose unionism has crystallized into this union-smashing movement. There are, of course, employers who say, The most competent men are unionists-, and we shall avoid trouble by applying, to union secretaries for the workers weneed.” They find that they get on most comfortably in that way. But, generally, there is a movement among employers to oppose collective, bargaining,, and to get back to the old days of socalled freedom, of contract, under which system the employer had the individual worker at his mercy. It appears to be the intention of the Government to assist this movement. That is indicated by the Bill.. As my time has nearly expired, I shall have to avail myself of further opportunities to deal with a number of matters on which. I wished to speak. It is not the intention of the Ministry to advance any real, public interest by introducing the proposed Bill. The measure is not one to sanction the construction of any public work. It has no constructive use.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the Bill, the motion being for leave to bring in a Bill.
– Although the Bill has not been brought in, we know its purpose. We know that it is sought to be introduced to serve the party needs of honorable members opposite. They wish to bring about another election, and intend then to misrepresent the aims and hopes of their opponents, with a view to getting back to Parliament in larger numbers than at present. The proposed Bill is to be brought forward to provide the so-called Liberal party with a policy of misrepresentation and abuse.
.- I rise to enter my emphatic protest against the method and manner in which the Government is trying to- put before the House what Ministers allege to be a measure of some practical use. It is intended to introduce two such measures, but that which forms the subject of the motion under discussion is regarded as the more important. It is, however, merely an imitation of a measure, a mere myth. It has no substance, and its object is merely to delude the people, and to obtain a double dissolution. I could understand the demand for a double dissolution on the rejection of a measure that was a reality and not a sham. What is the purpose of the proposed Bill ? The abolition of preference to unionists. Preference to whom ? To those who already enjoy it ? No. To those in the Public Service? No. To the casual employes of the Government? No. To whom, then? To no one. The Minister of Home Affairs in the Labour Administration gave preference to unionists, believing that that was in the best interests of the Commonwealth. Every contractor who desires to get the best results from the labour which he pays, employs unionists. As a toiler, and as an employer, I know from experience that the unionist is the better worker. Every employer who wishes to get work done with profit to himself, and with peace and contentment, engages unionists. The unionist presents a certificate guaranteeing that he understands the work he is about to be engaged upon. Twenty contractors out of twenty-one, nay, ninety-nine out of one hundred decent contractors or employers of labour, will tell you that in the interests of peaceful working, and for the sake of the best results both for the employer and the employe, they would not hesitate for a moment about giving preference to men who had proved themselves, by their membership of a union to be capable of carrying out work satisfactorily. Here we find a. Government supposed to be possessed of more brains than the average Administration, and capable not only of directing the destiny of the country, but also of restoring what they call responsible government, and clean and pure administration in the affairs of the Commonwealth: - men who claim that all the virtues which attach to a political party or political principle liewithin the grasp of their ambition or within the power of their consummation, and yet out of that mighty intellect, what have they produced ? They have produced a pure myth, something that has not substance or anything else in it, and they ask us to agree to measures which mean nothing, apply to nothing, and effect nothing, so that they may bring about a conflict between the two Houses, and subsequently ask for a double dissolution. I have no hesitation in saying that a Government who seek a double dissolution on those two measures are not only treating the public as if they were absolutely children in their comprehension of the affairs of their nation, but are treating members on this aide as if they had no recognition of their responsibility or of the obligation cast upon them as representatives of the people.
An Honorable Member. - “Why abuse the measures at such length if they can effect nothing ?
– A man who will sit in Parliament as a public representative and allow the Government to make a farce of Parliament-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word farce, because evidently it is unparliamentary to use that term, but I say that a Government who are prepared to delude Parliament and the people by such confidence tricks as are embodied in these measures deserve no other fate than to be hurled from the Treasury bench, and even from the Parliament of the country, as being men who do not realize their responsibilities to the people. We are asked as a party, sent hereby our constituents, the people of Australia, to assist the Government to deceive the people. I have been in the Labour movement from its inception, and so far as my knowledge goes, we have never tried to put before the people that which the people could not clearly understand. This measure that the Government seek to introduce to-night is capable of endless misrepresentation when placed before the ordinary public, who are not seized with the machinations of a Government of this kind. It is characteristic of the men who are fathering this measure to bring forward something which has no reality in it in order that they may not be tied down to anything definite at the elections, and in order that they may secure a double dissolution. For what? This House was elected only a few months ago. The people of Australia spoke, and with such effect that they returned to this House a majority on the Liberal side, a majority that sits in the chair to-night; hut in another place they sent such a majority as has converted the Senate into a citadel of Labour, instead of the harbor for worked-out politicians and derelicts, which it was thought it would be when the Constitution was framed. The people of Australia, voting on the same franchise, manhood and womanhood suffrage, returned to Parliament an overwhelming majority of Labour senators.
– With less votes.
– Not with less votes. The Government are in office with less votes of the people behind them than the Opposition have. They have a freak majority of one, in spite of the fact that they have a minority of the people behind them. The honorable member for New England is continually interjecting. Why does he not rise in his place, and address himself to this question] The electors of New England want to know what he thinks about this. myth. They have had their attention drawnto his precociousness in this Chamber, and they are expecting something more from him. This honorable member, who is supposed to be a student of law, supposed to have passed an examination in the mysteries of the law, and to know something about constitutional questions, sits in his place, and does nothing but yap, yap, yap, like a little pup barking at a mastiff. And this is the sort of man who constitutes the party which is to bring about purity in politics, and a restoration of responsible government. This measure which we have before us was introduced last session, and, by unfortunate circumstances, over which we on this side had no control, it was bludgeoned through this House. The Government got their Bill through this Chamber, not by legitimate debate and discussion, not by allowing members to fulfil the functions they are supposed to fulfil, namely, of expressing their views on legislation proposed here, but by the same tactics as a man who takes a watch out of a person’s pocket by reason of having knocked him stiff, or practically paralyzed him beforehand. The Government got their Bill through the House last session by the use of the “ gag»” *ne same thing as the bludger uses when trying to take down his fellow man in. the park, and elsewhere. The Government pursued those tactics, not once, but with determination and villanous intent to destroy the liberties of the House, and rob members of their just privileges, by using the “ gag “ time after time, by turning members out of the House, and reducing the voting strength on this side in a manner which I trust will never be repeated in this Parliament.
– And your party passed the “gag.”’
– Unfortunately they did, but it is to their credit that they have never yet applied it. When the other party were on this side of the House during the three years that we ,were in office they were allowed to debate every question at full length.
– Order ! The honorable member is digressing from the question before the Chair !
– I was wondering whether the Government were going to try to “gag” this measure through as they tried to “gag” the other. What I have said arose from the interjection of the honorable member for New England.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the “gag.” He need not follow an interjection.
– You will remember, sir, how hard you found it as a private member to resist the temptation. I am sure you cannot help sympathizing with me.
– As a private member I could sympathize with the honorable member, but, as Speaker, I must enforce the Standing Orders.
– I bow to your ruling. At the same time interjections are cowardly, when a member who has the right to speak is not prepared to rise to his feet and say what he has to say. 1 come back to this grand effort of the Liberal party that has taken so long to produce. Weeks of time have been spent on it already during the life of this Parliament. If we tried tq waste time by introducing a measure of this kind, we would be howled at by .the press and by honorable members opposite. We would be reminded of the cost of debates in Parliament, and held up to scorn in every leading article in the press, and especially by’ the honorable member for Parkes.
– Do not stir him, or he will shake you up.
– I do not think the Government .want him to be stirred up again. The last time he rose his speech cost them dear. It is quite fair to judge this measure by the source from which it has come. There are some men from whom one can always accept things knowing that they are offered in a wise and generous spirit; but when a measure of this kind is put forward by a gentleman of the calibre of the Attorney-General, we have every right to scrutinize it, to doubt it, and to suspect it. If it emanated from another man who had not his unsavoury political reputation we should not be so suspicious of it; but we know from his past history that the Attorney-General is capable of trying to take away, not only preference to unionists, but every other vital principle that has been fought for during the last twenty or thirty years by the workers of this and other countries.
– He cannot do it.
– He will try to do it as he has tried before. It is reasonable to judge the motives of the measure by its sponsor, and its sponsor by his record. He stopped all the increases to the Public servants while he was a Minister in Victoria, and if he would do that, how do we know that if he gets this mythical measure through he will not use the platform to tell the rural workers, the women’s leagues, and all those infamous ‘ organizers who go round the country propagating his doctrines, that it abolishes preference not merely to 2,000 men in the Public Service of the whole Commonwealth, but to the whole of the industrial army, of Australia? Those organizers went round long ago telling the people that the Labour party were going to abolish the marriage tie, and subdivide all the wealth of the people. Of course all those stories have been exploded long ago, and so the party opposite must have another cry for the next election. This is the cry that the Attorney-General brings forward. He reduced wages when he was in a high position in this State, and the
Prime Minister tells us to-night that he has done some magnanimous action for the benefit of theworking man which will stand to his credit. If he has done it, it must be the first time. I have never heard of any action of his that has favoured the worker in the days gone by, nor does this Bill favour the worker. It is against the interests of the worker. The greatest, most vindictive, and most relentless enemy of the worker in this country to-day is the honorable member who is fathering this Bill, and the workers have a right to doubt him because of his record. The leopard cannot change his spots, nor can a politician change his nature. In days gone by he refused to recognise trade union rates of pay. That is the man whom we have to trust to decide the issue upon which we shall go to the country. There is not a worker in this country who does not understand the true character of the man who is prepared to reduce the rates paid to Government employes below those paid in outside occupations. The honorable member in this very State told the men that he had more hard knocks in store. I have no doubt he had. Perhaps this Bill was incubating in his mind at the time. If so, it has taken a long time to hatch, but he has brought it forth at last, and expects to breathe into it some kind of life if we on this side of the House are suicidal enough to allow him to do so. It was the Attorney-General who told us that this was a harmless little measure to deal only with employes within the Public Service of the Commonwealth. He knows thatthey have already been dealt with by regulation - that the Government, by regulation, have already cancelled the preference granted by their predecessors in office. That being so, the Bill is a sheer mockery, possessing no substance whatever. There is nothing in it, and the Speaker should rule it out of order. It can serve no’ object. It is of no use to any one save political manoeuvres, and those who have not the courage to put their real views before the people. It is of use only to those men who, if they dared, would abolish not only preference to unionists in the Commonwealth service, but preference to unionists throughout the whole industrial world. The Attorney-General would do that if he dared. When he was in the Victorian Parliament he induced the Governor to grant him a dissolution because of a blank created in a Bill - it was just as big a blank as this Bill is - and on it he carried the House to the country. He is trying the same game again - this political manceuvrer.
An Honorable Member. - Trickster!
– I may not use that word. I have to be very careful at present, because we are in the danger zone, and I wish to avoid an explosion. The Attorney-General swept away factory legislation in Victoria. It is to such men that we are to intrust the destinies of this country. When they had power in this State they swept away factory legislation. That meant that many workers in factories were deprived of those safeguards to life and limb, and of the conditions of employment, and everything else they had won by their exertions and self-sacrifice. The Attorney-General robbed them of those rights when he was in power in the State Parliament, and today he is trying to rob the people of this country of the right to enjoy the result of the last election. He is trying to break down the power of another place, where the Labour party is entrenched, and where, if we have any sense, we shall remain entrenched until the Senate is sent to the country in a legitimate manner in the days to come.
– That is what the honorable member and his party are frightened of.
– We are not going to allow the honorable member or his party to do anything which, in our judgment, will not mean a fair deal for the public. Let honorable members opposite put aside the two test Bills, and we will show them whether we are frightened to meet them in the constituencies. We are prepared at any time to meet them on an equal basis. They seek, however, to bring down another place, which is really their nightmare. The Democracy of Australia has returned to the Senate, on the same suffrage as that upon which we were elected, a sufficient number of men to guard their interests, and they expect the Opposition in this House to maintain that strength in the Senate for the protection of their liberties against men of the type of the
Attorney-General. They do not expect us to he gulled, misled, or fooled by the tricksters on the other side. I make no bones about it, but say at once’ that the duty of this party is to fight this measure at every stage. Indeed, I go further, and say that the man who does not use every parliamentary weapon of which he may avail himself in this fight to prevent men like the Attorney-General from throwing dust in the eyes of the electors, from deceiving the mass of the people, is not carrying the badge of our party as it should be carried. This great reformer - the ‘Attorney-General - has produced, in this Bill, an addled egg. Even when hatched it will produce nothing.
– The honorable member is frightened of the hatching.
– We are not frightened of anything. When the hatching does take place, the honorable member will be glad, probably, to get out of the way, lest he be poisoned by the odours that arise from it. The AttorneyGeneral, when in State politics, reduced the old-age pensions. It is to him that we are asked to intrust the destinies of Australia. We are to intrust them to the man who would deprive of their little pensions the old and infirm - the pioneers of this country who have stood the heat and burden of the day, and have made it possible for him to enjoy the emoluments that he wins out of the troubles and trials of the people.
– Is this the same old speech ?
– No; unlike the honorable member, I never repeat a speech.
– This is the same old speech that we had on the AddressinReply. Give us something new.
– The honorable member, who has just come into the chamber after looking after his own business all day, should allow those who have been here throughout the sitting to proceed without interruption.
– I have been attending to all that correspondence about which the honorable member was talking the other day.
– If honorable members opposite had’ their way, we should find business men coming here at half- past 9 or 10 o’clock at night to talk’ together quietly over the laws necessary for the emancipation, of the people, and they would doubtless regard the country as quite safe. We know business men who give one hour of their time to their public positions, and all the rest to their own affairs.- The Attorney-General, with his cold-blooded characteristics, swept away the State factory legislation and reduced old-age pensions. He made it imperative, before the old people could take their meed of assistance, that their sons and daughters should be degraded and humiliated by being dragged into the public Courts to expose their poverty. There were many who refused to undergo this ordeal, but there were many, also, who, to the detriment of their own children, were called upon to pay towards the pensions of their parents.
– I cannot connect the honorable member’s remarks with the subject under discussion.
– As a matter of fact, no one was dragged into Court unless he was able to pay.
– They had to go to the Court before their ability to paycould be known. As to the remark of Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is desirable, when discussing proposed legislation, to look atits source, and to keep that in mind. If we saw in front of us a man with a gun, and we knew him to be a good, marksman, we should, get out of the way; and the Attorney-General is “ the man behind the gun,” with which he has proved his skill as a. marksman at the target of Democracy. In addition to reducing oldage pensions, the honorable gentleman raised the passenger fares on the railways - a glorious piece of reform-
– I am quite unable to connect the honorable member’s remarks with the subject under discussion.
– I thought I had made it clear that I was referring to the subject behind the subject under discussion.
– I think that is too remote.
– The AttorneyGeneral, as a State Minister, then, turned to the farmers, and charged them £d. additional for each bushel of wheat- they sent over the railways to market.
– The hon orable member is. taking a line which is quite out of order, and I ask him to confine himself to the subject under discussion.
– I hope Mr. Deputy Speaker will not stop the honorable member.
-There are some men so case-hardened that their hides could not be pierced with a Martini-Henry bullet. The honorable gentleman also prohibited organization among the public servants of the State.
– I think these matters are quite irrelevant.
– We shall see whether the fact I have just mentioned is irrelevant or not. The Bill before us is an interference with the right of organisation in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. If it means anything, it means the undermining of the unionistic principle in casual employment by the Government. In the measure we see the same characteristics that appeared in the State measure many years ago. The Government, through the Prime Minister, have declaredin favour of arbitration laws, which were brought into existence to end the disastrous strikes by which men had formerly to fight for their rights. Men were advised to join unions so that they might speak through their officers to the Court, as against the employers, and thus bring about a peaceful and equitable solution of the questions at issue. Yet the Ministry are endeavouring by this thin end of the wedge to undermine that unionism which is the basis of our Conciliation and Arbitration. Acts. Without unionism arbitration would be impossible ; for, unless there be combination, there can be no systematic and intelligent representation of the cases to the Court. Years ago the workers were advised to take political action, because the community was tired of strikes; and that advice was taken with such good effect that there have been evolved the arbitration laws of the State and the Commonwealth. Although our arbitration laws have not done all that was expected of them, they have greatly minimized the troubles that arose from the adoption of the old barbarous system of the strike. The AttorneyGeneral desires now to undermine the principle which makes arbitration pos sible. By proposing to prohibit preference to unionists, he is endeavouring to undermine unionism. If a man finds that he can secure employment as readily if he is a non-unionist as if he is a unionist, he will not take out a union ticket, or, if he is a member of a union, he may “ scab “ upon his union as some do under an incentive of this kind. The honorable gentleman would bring us back to the barbarous conditions which in the past devastated the homes of our people, broke the hearts of our women, and starved our children. We have to look below the surface in dealing with measures of this kind. We cannot take them at. their face value. The man who was prepared in the Victorian Parliament to prohibit the organization of the public servants is to-day pursuing the same course by saying that if a man belongs to a union, no matter how good a tradesman he may be, he shall be given no preference over a man who has not got a union ticket. The Government proposal applied only to about 2,000 men, but it applies now tono one, because they have cancelled the regulation giving preference to unionists in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The Bill would not be such a mockery as it really is if it applied to any section of the community. The Attorney-General knows that it will not apply to any one, but he seeks to steal a march upon the people. He hopes to be able to induce the electors to rescind the votes they gave on the 31st May last, and by which they returned to the Senate eleven Labour senators as against seven of the other side. The honorable gentleman would undo the work which we have been doing for nearly twenty years to safeguard the liberties, rights, and freedom of the workers of this country. Years ago we took the advice of those who were opposed to the Labour party. They told us to organize, and asked us not to resort to strikes, but to political action, to redress the wrongs of the people. From that time we have worked consistently forward with our legislation. There is not one part of the legislation which the Labour party has been successful in placing on the statute-book that the present Government have the courage to touch. It is because they dare not touch it that they are now putting forward an. unreal reform in this proposal for the prohibition of preference to unionists in the Public
Service. I can look back to the time when I was a boy sixteen and a half years of age, and took part in the first strike that I ever had experience of. I know the obstacles that the workers had to face in the Old Country in those days. They were not united, because the people had not free education, and the masses were unable to comprehend their power as they do in these later days. I remember the helplessness of the men who at that time fought against oppression. When they used the only weapon which they could use in order to demand their right, their children had to go without food, the mothers were unable to give sustenance to their offspring, and the fathers were not only unable to provide food for their families, but suffered great privations themselves. I know that the men on the other side have steadily opposed the arbitration laws which the Labour party have desired to enact. They fought us in the New South Wales Parliament where such laws were first introduced. They fought us later in this Parliament, and I remember the bitterness with which they carried on the fight. To-day, for the first time in the history of this Parliament, the party opposite have been returned with a majority of one in this House. Hitherto the Conservatives have not had even a decent minority in this House, though they have sometimes been in office as the result of combinations and fusion. I ask honorable members what the Government, with a bare majority, are prepared to do? They are prepared to restore the evil conditions that prevailed years ago. They are prepared not only to prohibit preference to unionists in the Public Service, but, if they dared, to take away preference from every unionist in this country. That is what we must bear in mind when we are considering this make-believe measure; this preposterous imposition, submitted, I will not say by an .imposter. If this gentleman believes it is right to abolish preference to unionists in the Public Service, then, in the name of all that is holy, why is it not right to abolish the principle anywhere? Is he going to apply one law to the Public Service, and another law to men who are outside that Service? Is this the type of government that we are to get from this reformer, whose history is blackened practically with his efforts in the days gone by? Is he game, I ask, to do the right thing to carry out his principles to their logical issue? Instead of him bringing in a make-believe of this kind, let him go out and advocate the abolition of preference to unionists throughout the industries of this country. No, he is not built on those lines. He is hiding the dagger till a more opportune time arises. Why is he not prepared to carry out a principle to its logical issue? He knows that if he would’ throw down the gauntlet as he should do, and say, “I want to abolish preference to unionists altogether,” it would be of no use to him to cry out for a double dissolution, for every union man would be not only a voter but an anxious and bitter worker against him. Therefore, he is trying to deceive these men by this pretentious measure. He thinks that he will delude them because he does not affect them personally. He thinks that they will not realize that their turn will come next. They will be up and doing .to fight for the liberties they have already won by the sacrifice of labour, money, and in cases, life. The honorable member hides himself in a coward’s castle. He shelters himself behind a. make-believe measure, when he ought to come forward if he is a man at all. He was never known to have any courage except when he got full power. It would not be a Bill to abolish preference to unionists in the Public Service that he would submit if a double dissolution occurred, and by a great miracle the Liberal party were returned to power in both Houses. Then we would see what his game was. Then we would be able to form our opinions and realize that this man has not only been a deceiver in the past, but also a destroyer. When I think of the manner in which the Prime Minister can, with brazen effrontery, face a question of this kind, I am reminded of an old trade unionist whose reputation was built up whilst he was fighting for the principle of preference to unionists. He would never have been in public life had he not got on the backs of the workers and made them believe that he was going to retain their rights and privileges. He. would never have seen public life at all had he not taken that course in the early nineties, as we know he did. When I think of the Prime Minister in the days gone by-
– Go easy; here he is.
– That is my name.
– Ah! But it ought to be spelt another way.
– Your name ought to be spelt Jeremiah judging by this speech.
– I think that when the electors.of Henty have an opportunity of reviewing the marvellous services rendered by the honorable member they will be likely to ask him what his name is and what he calls himself.
– They will not ask me about my lamentations.
– We do not expect the honorable member to lament over a matter of this kind. He has been a noted strike-breaker in his time. He has gone out to break down the worker, . and to break up his union.
– What has this to do with the question before the House ?
– It has something to do with the honorable member’s observation. It well becomes a man who is supporting a Bill to take away preferenceto unionists when we realize that he is bound to support even more dastardly measures - the honorable member for Indi need not grin, because he is not game to get up to speak. The people of Indi wonder what he is doing here.
– Is the honorable member in order, sir, in casting a reflection upon honorable members on this side by saying that they are supporting dastardly measures, that they can only vote for the Bills because they are forced to do so?
– The honorable member is not in order in making these reflections, but they are to some extent provoked by the interjections from the opposite side. I have to request forbearance from all sides of the House in order that the rules may be observed.
– Whilst I am not only anxious, but really interested, sir, in complying with the mandate of the Chair, still I am only human, and cannot at all times allow a man to put interjections into my speech without me putting the acid on them, so that people may see both sides. The honorable member has indeed . something to talk about when he talks about preference to unionists. The company, the unionists employed by which were broken by his efforts, has never returned a dividend since then.
– Yes, quite a lot.
– The company has never been able to return a dividend since then, because it has not been worked by men who understood their business. However, let that pass.
– I should think so. It is a dangerous subject.
– The Bill which was introduced last session was designed to take away from members of the Public Service the right of preference, irrespective of whether or not they were members of political or labour unions. I was wondering whether the Bill which the Government now wish to bring forward will apply to Packer’s Independent Workers Union.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have no desire to appear to “ stonewall “ this motion. Indeed, I am anxious that the proposals of the Government should be tabled so that we may know exactly where we stand. If honorable members opposite will follow me, I will tell them what they agreed to last year. It was then stated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, at the opening of Parliament -
It is proposed to amend the law relating to conciliation and arbitration in such a way as to prohibit preference being granted by the Court to members of any organization, any part of whose funds are directly or indirectly applicable to political purposes.
The Bill which the Government submitted in redemption of that promise was one of two clauses. The first clause was the title of the measure, and the second declared that no preference or discrimination should be made against any person-
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to discuss the details of the Bill. The motion is one for leave to introduce the measure.
– The Bill which was introduced last session in no sense proposed to prohibit the granting of preference to unionists. The measure which the Government now ask leave to introduce must be based on exactly similar lines, because it is being submitted for a specific purpose. My authority for that statement is contained in paragraph 3 of the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of this session. That paragraph reads -
During the first session of this Parliament, my Ministers, for reasons which they advise me were beyond their control, were unable to pass legislation on many subjects outlined in their policy statement presented to you on 12th August last. Those subjects comprised Bills dealing with the prohibition of preference or favoritism in Government employment, and the restoration of the electoral provisions for voting by post.
Then paragraph 4 reads -
These measures failed to pass, and it is intended to make a further effort to pass them in the short session now commencing.
There can be no doubt, therefore, that the Bill which the Government propose to introduce is identical with the Bill of last session. I say unhesitatingly that that measure should not be allowed to see the light of day again in this Parliament. It means nothing, because - as has been pointed out over and over again - it cannot effect what it proposes to effect for the simple reason that its aim has already been accomplished. To introduce a Bill to accomplish something which has already been accomplished is asking us to degrade our intelligence, and for that reason alone it ought not to be submitted.
– That is a pons asinorum.
– I am sorry if the honorable member stumbles over problem number five, because he will be completely befogged by the time I reach objection number fifteen. Had the Government introduced a Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act by abolishing the right of the Court to grant preference to unionists, honorable members upon this side of the Chamber could not but have accepted their challenge, because a measure of that description would have meant everything. We are prepared to stand or fall by the principle of preference to unionists. If the Bill proposed to do anything in the direction I have suggested, we should not object to its introduction. I am somewhat inclined to think that the Bill of last session is not quite the hollow sham which some honorable members appear to think it is.
– Order ! The honorable member must not designate the Bill a hollow sham.
– Then I will say that it is not quite what it pretends to be. The Government are undoubtedly striking at the principle of preference to unionists. The Bill presented last session was evidently meant to challenge the Labour party on the question of preference to unionists. But it did not do it. If the Bill which the Government now seek to introduce means nothing, or if it means everything, it stands condemned, and ought not to be presented.
– I showed to-night that the Government are granting preference to unionists on the transcontinental railway.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for reminding me that the Government have decided to grant preference of a most decided character to the members of a certain union - not only preference in regard to employment, but also in regard to the conditions of labour. No non-unionist is guaranteed by the Government the preference which they are extending to the unionist.
– To what is the honorable member referring?
– To-night, the honorable member for Cook, in the presence of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, read a statement which showed that the Government had entered into an agreement with the Australian Workers Union in regard to certain railway construction in South Australia. Under that agreement, employment is not only guaranteed to the members of that union, but wages and hours are guaranteed to them as a preference. The Prime Minister will find the facts recorded in the speech delivered by the honorable member for Cook. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs was asked to deny the truth of the honorable member’s statement, and he could not do so. When this Parliament was summoned last year, we were told that certain action was to be taken in regard to preference to unionists. That action was not taken. A Bill that did not come up to the protestations of the Government was introduced, and failed to pass. What hope has the Prime Minister of getting his Bill passed on this occasion ? He knows that the measure will not pass. Therefore, I ask honorable members and the public to take notice of a Government deliberately asking for leave to introduce a Bill which they know very well will not pass. Yet they talk about wasting time and delaying public business, about the parliamentary machine beng defunct, and about there being a dead-lock in legislation. If bringing down a measure which Ministers know will not pass is not an effectual way of delaying public business, what other way could be adopted ? Leave to introduce this Bill should not be granted, because the measure will not accomplish what it suggests. It doesnot carry out the promise the Ministry made last year when they first met Parliament, and it will not affect the question of preference to unionists, as they then sought to deal with it. If Ministers would at this late hour undertake to bring in a Bill, as they promised to do last year, to take away from the Arbitration Court the power to grant preference to unionists, honorable members on this side would immediately grant the necessary permission to introduce it, so that the matter might be fought out. At this stage, little need be said in regard to the general question of preference to unionists. Other opportunities will present themselves of going exhaustively into a discussion of the whole question. If the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, are in a decent humour, we may have opportunity to discuss the merits of the matter on the secondreading stage. However, I wish to call attention to one or two things. When the preference to unionists administrative order was issued by the Fisher Government, there was a meeting held in the Melbourne Town Hall. It was organized by the Free Workers Association, and the Lord Mayor presided. According to the newspaper report, the hall was well filled. This was the motion that was proposed by a Mr. Varley -
That this meeting of Commonwealth citizens enters its strong and emphatic protest against the action of the Federal Government in declaring its intention to adopt the rigid policy of giving “ absolute preference . to unionists “ in connexion with the engaging of all temporary and casual employes required by the Commonwealth service; and, further, as Australian citizens, we strongly protest against the partisan use of public money, and uphold on the principle of justice and fair play, the right to work for all workers, whether unionist or nonunionist, in either private or public employ.
The remarkable thing in regard to most of those gentlemen who talk so glibly about the right of non-unionists to work, and the right of unionists to let them do so, who talk so freely about the freedom of all, is the commendable way in which they talk about unionism. According to the newspaper report of this meeting, Mr. Varley said -
He had not one word to say against unionism. No one had a stronger admiration than he had for genuine unionism. It had saved the Empire sixty years ago from revolution. Mr. Varley proceeded to eulogize the services the early unionists had rendered to the workers, and the fight for the women and children in cotton factories and mines.
There had been expressions used recently which would be a disgrace to brigands or Turkish soldiers.
Whether the Stead interview were true or not, that Government stood for the weakening of the ties which bound us to the Motherland.
Have I leave to continue my remarks tomorrow ?
– I wish to hear the end of this argument. You are not tired of the “stone-wall” yet, are you?
– You do not call this a “ stone- wall.”
– It looks like a solid bit of concrete.
– It is wonderful how sweetly these gentlemen refer to unionism, and express their appreciation of it. History proves that it was because of the action of the ancestors of the Tory party in politics that unionism became necessary. It was that action that compelled our ancestors to form trade unions; that compelled the action of industrial associations; that brought about the improvement in the position of the workers throughout the world. It is the continued action of the same Tory party that has driven the workers into political unionism.
– For how many years have you been in a trade union ?
– I have never been in a trade union.
– Did you ever try to form a trade union?
– Yes. The matter is easily explained. I was never in a trade in which we could have a union.
– I was merely thinking that you knew a great deal about the matter.
– I am a member of the Australian Workers Union.
– Yes; since you came into politics.
– I had my ticket before I came into politics.
– A lot of you have done the same thing.
– Order !
– The conduct of the ancestry of the Tory Governments compelled workers to join in industrial trade unions, and the Tory Governments of modern times have compelled them to extend that unionism and take an active part in politics. The honorable member for Maranoa last night told us again the well-known tale of how, some years ago, after the maritime strike and the shearers’ strike, the workers were told not to depend entirely on industrial unionism, but to take an active part in politics. That advice has been so well taken that the workers of the world to-day are finding that, instead of depending on one side of their activity, they should strive with both wings fully stretched ; and with the industrial wing beating time with the political wing, they stand a fair chance of getting recognition of their claims. As they were driven into industrial unionism, so they have been driven - I say it advisedly - into taking political action, and there is no hope in the world of smashing industrial unions or political unions. On the contrary, every attempt made to break up unionism is foredoomed to failure. You are commencing a fight that will cause the biggest cleavage imaginable in the communities of Australia. Nothing would create more division, and more class prejudice, than an attempt to separate the workers of the community into two sections.
– I think that the Ministry wants Syndicalism.
– I have already charged Ministers with being Syndicalists, because it is the Syndicalists who are opposed to direct political action, who believe in force, and are against constitutional methods. The workers of this country have realized that the proper line of advance is by way of constitutional procedure. The Prime Minister and his associates might as well try to sweep back the waters of the ocean with a broom as try to prevent the advance of unionism in Australia. There is no more hope of breaking up the unions of this community, or depriving the workers of their right to take political action, or of weakening their determination to employ that right, than there is that this Parliament will dissolve to-morrow. Cannot the Prime Minister accept the facts of the case? He knows that he is engaged in a hopeless fight, which will cause trouble, strife, disorder, and unrest. Instead of quarrelling as to whether unions should exist, and as to what they should do, let us try to guide them, and make use of them. Let us try to solidify the workers on the one hand and the employers on the other, so that each side may work mutually for the benefit of industrial conditions. It is in this way that we shall reach industrial peace. The method now being adopted will defer that happy result.
– We could not beat your record for industrial unrest, try as we might.
– The following is an interesting extract from a Scottish newspaper : -
A case of great public interest was heard in the Glasgow and South Western Police Court recently, when George Strang, labourer, appeared before Bailie Riddle to answer a charge of having used threatening and abusive language towards Alexander Slack, labourer.
Evidence having been called, it was found that the case arose out of a strike. The accused was one of the strikers, and his accuser was a “ blackleg.” Witnesses for the prosecution spoke to having seen the accused approach Slack, and, after quietly talking for a minute, they became noisy. The accused was told to go and mind his own business, and he retorted by calling Slack a traitor to his fellows, a” scab,” “ blackleg,” &c, and ended by threatening to “knock the heid off him.” ….
Bailie : But you can’t deny the man Slack the right to work.
Accused : I dae nae sich thing, your honor; it’s society that denies him the right tae work. If he had been granted the right tae work by society, he widna been idle when I cam’ oot on strike.
Accused (continuing) : There’s a big difference atween the right to work an’ the right tae blackleg
Bailie : It’s hard to know what to do in this case. You seem to be actingin the interests of your wife and children, and in defence of your hearth and home, and that is rather a manly thing to do.
That account shows how utterly false and untrue are the charges made about the meanness and want of honor on the part of those who refuse to work with nonunionists. We are told that unionists are cruel, insulting, and vicious, and that they oppose non-unionists in what, to use the Prime Minister’s own phrase, may be termed summary fashion. Let me quote another passage, from the Age of 19th March last. According to the report of the annual meeting of the Huddart
Parker Steam-ship Company held in Melbourne, Mr. W. T. Appleton, who presided, referred to the work of the past year and to the increase in wages, but said that the year’s results had been very satisfactory. Mr. Moss Isaacs seconded the motion, and said that the board was to be congratulated on its achievements. It had had to fight he knew not what hard conditions, but “God knows,” he concluded, “what you will have to undergo during the next twelve months from these brutes of men.” That is the language of men who complain of the unionists. But as the hour is late I ask the Prime Minister to consent to the adjournment, and desire the leave of the House to conclude my speech to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following paper was presented: -
Inter-State Conference, Melbourne, MarchApril, 1914. - Report of the Resolutions, Proceedings, and Debates, together with Appendices.
– I move -
Thatthe House do now adjourn.
The procedure this evening has been most unusual, and such as I do not recollect in connexion with any previous. Bill. I was given to understand that honorable members opposite were anxious to dispose of the work of the session. Is this what they meant when they said they would help us to get on with work ? Our first proposition is obstructed right at the beginning.
– Have we not a right to debate these important proposals?
– Did the honorable member use the word “ debate ”? I suppose that Webster knows the meaning of the word. I hope that next week we shall be able to “get a move on.” We must get on with our business.
.- I shall not traverse the remarks of the Prime Minister. The motion which has been discussed to-night is important, and the Bill which it is desired to introduce will be discussed in a fair and reasonable way at its various stages. Honorable members opposite will have their opportunity as a Government, and as a party. The Prime Minister will have everything that he desires, and perhaps more than he wants.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140507_reps_5_73/>.