5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the Government have heard of the political earthquake which occurred in New South Wales last Saturday, and whether, in view of that shock, they have considered their position and decided to place themselves in the hands of the electors of the Commonwealth forthwith?
– It has not been recorded on the seismograph.
– Mr. President-
– I asked a question just now, sir. I do not know whether the Minister concerned considers it his duty to treat the question in silence, but I insist upon a reply.
– The honorable senator cannot insist upon a reply to any question. While it is quite in order for an honorable senator to ask questions without notice relating to matters of which the Senate can take cognisance, it is also within the right, under the Standing Orders, of any Minister or senator so questioned, to refuse to reply.
– I give notice of the question for to-morrow.
Naval Board: Sale of Warships
– Can the Minister of Defence tell me whether it is a fact, as stated in the daily press of to-day, that Commander Lewin has been temporarily appointed to the Naval Board, and that other changes are contemplated ?
– No appointment of the kind has been made.
– Can the Minister of Defence intimate to the Senate, and if not now, when will he be able to state, what steps are to be taken for the reconstitution of the Naval Board?
– I can only say at the present juncture that the matter is under consideration, and I am hopeful that before long some Cabinet decision will be arrived at.
– Will it be indicated to the Senate ?
– No, it will be come to after the Senate has risen.
– As you did in regard to taking over Cockatoo Island.
– When the Minister is considering naval matters in connexion with the Defence Department, will he consider the whole question in such a way as to bring about the abolition of the Naval Board, and the selling of the warships that we have recently purchased, and rest content with the land defence?
– I can only say at once that I have no intention of doing anything of the kind. It is a matter of very great surprise to me that a member of the party which did much to bring this off should now so suddenly turn round and advocate its abolition.
– I have been against it all through.
– The honorable senator gave a very useful vote to help it.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs yet ascertained from the EngineerinChief for Railways the name of the contractor for the western end of the trans-Australian railway who said that it took one man ten days to cut 51/4 cords of wood?
– I have not yet received an answer. A telegram has been sent to the West asking for the name of the contractor, and I hope to get the information during the day.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether, as stated in the press to-day, Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice has presented an interim report on Cockburn Sound, and if so, whether he will lay a copy of it on the table?
– No report, interim or otherwise, has been received from Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice.
– Has the following report in a Sydney newspaper been brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence?
A little white-faced boy of 15 appeared at the Water Summons Court this morning to answer a summons for not attending a compulsory drill. His appearance indicated that he was too delicate to undergo military training. His legs were crooked, and were supported by steel bands and straps. His mother, Mrs. Mitchell, of 23 Dalgety’s-road, Dawes Point, was with him, and she stated that the boy had been a cripple since he was five years of age, and that he had not long left the Children’s Hospital.
The worst feature of this case was that the mother and boy had been brought to the court, although the military authorities had been informed of the lad’s physical disabilities last March, and the medical officer had examined him then, and declared that he was unfit for service. In spite of that, a notification came from the division head-quarters in July assigning young Mitchell to a company. Naturally his mother informed the military folk that her son had been declared unfit for drill, but she was nevertheless hilled to the court to-day. She was quietly told before the court opened that she need not wait, but she decided to have the matter settled legally and finally, as she feared more annoyance when the military authorities had again forgotten the boy’s condition.
All the satisfaction the mother and boy got was to find the case withdrawn.
Will the Minister make inquiries into the matter, and say whether the person who was guilty of this very serious blunder will be asked to report on it?
– The newspaper report was brought under my notice a few days ago, and steps were immediately taken to ascertain the truth of the statements set out therein. I am not yet in possession of the result of the inquiries, but I have no hesitation in saying that if the report is even approximately correct a very serious blunder has been committed, for which somebody ought to be called to account.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Has the Minister of Defence yet decided upon the appointment of a successor to the late Lt.-Colonel Le Mesurier, as Commandant of South Australia?
– Can the Minister of Defence inform the Senate whether the temporary suspension of shipwrights at Cockatoo Island dockyard, owing, it is alleged, to the shortage of. material,, has been removed by the supply of material?
– I cannot speak definitely on the point raised by the honorable senator. I think he will understand that there are so many details there that it is impossible for rae to keep track of them all.
– That matter was brought forward.
– There are so many details that I am not quite certain now as to- the position in which this particular trouble stands. Speaking generally, I understand that there is ample work in one branch of the establishment, and not enough in the other, and that the shortage of work in that department is largely due to the fact that State orders, which were executed there, when the establishment was under State control, are being withdrawn. Cockatoo Island is therefore dependent to-day principally upon the work connected with the warships.
– My question refers to the discharge of shipwrights, owing to lack of material - not to want of work.
– The Naval Board have informed me that they are not aware of any shortage of material, or of any failure to supply material which has been asked for.
– I may inform Senator Rae that the material which was ordered has now been supplied, and that the whole of the shipwrights will recommence work during the current month.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Defence Act 1903-1912. - Regulations amended, &c-
Statutory Rules 1913, No. 302.
Statutory Rules 1913, No. 303.
Statutory Rules 1913, No. 304.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired under, at -
Cape Pallarenda, Queensland - For Quarantine purposes.
Queanbeyan, Federal Territory- For Federal Capital purposes.
Weetangera Federal Territory- For Federal Capital purposes.
Postmaster-General’s Department : Third Annual Report 1912-13.
Naval Defence Act 1910-1912. - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 305.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had disagreed with the amendments made by the Senate.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Up to the present the articles referred to in the departmental stock sheets previously laid on the Library table have not been dealt with by the Audit Department’s officials. The last audit of the Auditor-General’s Department prior to the one which is now proceeding took place in 191 1 ; the date of the inspectors . report was 23rd August, 1911. 3- Yes.
Supply of Sleepers
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
What additional number, exclusive of powellised karri, is it anticipated will be delivered at Port Augusta before the end of February ? 3 What is the anticipated daily sleeper re quirements at -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. It is not considered advisable to give the information at the present stage, as certain negotiations for the supply of sleepers are in progress. 3. (a) and (b) The daily sleeper requirements at each end will be fixed by the final decision as to the average rate of progress to be made; but in each mile of construction, approximately, 2,100 sleepers will be used.
– I ask the leave of the Senate to make a statement.
– In regard to the advertisement relating to the withdrawal of a polling place from a hospital in Adelaide, which was read in this chamber yesterday by Senator Newland, I wish to say that I have made inquiries into the matter, and I find -that action was taken in consequence of the following telegram dated 4th December, which was received from the Chief Electoral Officer of South Australia -
It is found the North Adelaide Private Hospital will not be available as polling place for forthcoming by-election or future elections, therefore recommend its abolition before issue writ.
It appears that- the hospital authorities stated that it would not be possible for them to provide a room for a polling booth any longer.
– Was it the South Australian Government which prompted them to act in that way?
– I know nothing about that.
– The honorable senator does know something about it.
– I ask, sir, that I may be protected from such interjections. I have given all the information that there is in the Department to the Senate. I repeat that action was taken in consequence of the Chief Electoral Officer of South Australia advising that a room at the hospital for a polling booth would be no longer available. It was in consequence of the representations made by the hospital authorities that the polling place was withdrawn.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to -
That the report from the Printing Committee presented to the Senate on the 9th December, 1913, be adopted.
Debate resumed from 4th December Side page 3728), on motion by Senator
Cl emons -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The very title of this Bill reminds me very forcibly of several questions which have been before the public of late years, and which still remain undecided. Prohibition has been a subject for discussion which has interested a very large section of the community, and yet there is no sign of prohibition.
– Prohibition of what?
– Everybody understands what the general term “ prohibition,” when used in a political and social sense, means in Australia. Yet, although the question has been before many Parliaments, there has never been any talk either of a single or double dissolution in connexion with it. The Bill which is now before us does not refer to the drink traffic, or to any other social question of that description in Australia, neither does it affect a matter of great national importance at the present time. It resembles very much in its character a Bill that was before the Senate yesterday, and was amended to such an extent that even its authors scarcely recognise it. What the fate of the Bill before us may be I hardly care to contemplate, but, in comparison with the measure of yesterday, it is really insignificant. As has been said already, it is an insult to the people of Australia, it is an insult directed against the workers, and it is an insult to the representatives of His Majesty the King in Australia ; in fact, it is an insult to common sense.
– It is the greatest farce ever perpetrated !
– It is the greatest farce ever perpetrated by any Government in relation to any political institution. We cannot imagine that the public of Australia will consent in the near future to be put to the expense of £100,000 to gratify the spleen or ambition of a farcical Government; and I am sure that, in the circumstances, His Excellency the Governor- General would treat with contempt any suggestion for a dissolution, either single or double.
– Is it a fact that the Government have lost their ambition since Saturday?
– Well, the Government are very quiet. The very fact that it is in the power of the present Government, and that this Bill will enable them-
– The Government have already, by regulation, anticipated the Bill.
– Quite so, and I do not know whether it is intuition, or what is the impulse that has caused them to do so. This Bill is rather like putting extra hoops on a cask that contains nothing. From an administrative point of view the Government may be justified in their action, and I am not going to say anything to the contrary. The Government are only giving expression to their opinion; they are opposed to unionism, root and branch, and always have been, and their party have always acted in the same manner. Of course, certain members of the present Government, and certain of their supporters, both inside and outside Parliament, have declared that they are not opposed to unionism - that they loved the old unionism, but are bitterly opposed to the new or political unionism.
– They do not like either.
– The representatives of the Liberal party in the past opposed the old unionism as bitterly as the present supporters of the Government, and the members of the Government themselves, oppose the new unionism to-day. I can remember reading years ago, when I was able to do so for myself, that two of the first settlers in New South Wales, the State which Senator Millen represents, were sent out with Governor Phillip because they had had the audacity to attempt to form a trade union. That shows how the old unionism was “ loved “ in the past by the same people who hate the new unionism to-day. Every man who has studied the progress of trade unionism knows that in the past the working classes were prohibited from banding together for their own protection. However, in spite of opposition, the old unionism grew and prospered, and became too strong even for the governing classes of those days. It was gradually recognised by the people, and even by Parliament itself, and Acts were passed authorizing the banding together of the working classes in their own interests. This old unionism in the time of its Struggles did a great deal for the workers ; but new circumstances have arisen since those days. There has been organization of industry, and this has required the re-organization of labour. With the old unionism of twenty or even thirty years ago our friends on the other side were satisfied, because it was not so aggressive as the present movement; and so long as it did nothing they did not care. But unionism became militant, and in the middle of the latter part of last century it was strong enough to force from the employing classes conditions hitherto unattainable. When improved conditions and higher wages were not granted unionists were strong enough to strike, and by their combined effort compel concessions that the employers refused to give willingly. Members of the Government and their supporters talk about the strikes of the last three or four years, but these are nothing in comparison with the strikes of the early nineties. The great maritime strike, the great shearers’ strike, and the great upheaval at Broken Hill, were of such magnitude that they almost terrified the employers of those days. Members of Chambers of Commerce and of Chambers of Manufactures appealed to the working classes. “ Why do you exhaust your strength and our strength “ they asked, “ in these contests between capital and labour ? Why do you not endeavour to get improved conditions by constitutional means? Why not go to the ballot and register your opinion, and from the legislative halls of the different States get that redress you have to fight for so strenuously now?” There are men in the Senate to-day who remember those times, and who must be well aware of the truth of the statement I now make. In Adelaide, a very prominent citizen and member of the employing class, implored the workers to take that course of action. The workers did so, and became, to a very great extent, political, as well as industrial, associations. For a considerable time they were despised and treated with contempt. It was imagined that their combination could not have any effect, but, as the old unionism grew, 100 or 150 years ago, so has the new. unionism grown under opposition and bad treatment during the last twenty-five years. It is now so strong that the very people who advised the workers to reorganize have become alarmed,and have begun to talk about the benefits and merits of the old unionism, and of the great faults and failings of the new unionism - the new unionism, which they advised the workers to adopt.
– They have been sorry ever since that they gave that advice.
– They have been sorry ever since that they gave that good advice to the workers. I am not surprised that our friends the enemy are alarmed at the present time, for during the short twenty years in which this new unionism has been in existence, and Labour has been organized politically as well as industrially, much more has been accomplished than was ever anticipated by the leaders of the working classes in those days. It was never imagined that in less than twenty years there would be Labour Governments in the various States. I am sure that it never was contemplated by the leaders of the working classes, the leaders of the Federal movement, or any other section of the Australian community, that within less than ten years from the establishment of Federation, there would be a Labour Government in power in the Commonwealth. It was never anticipated that we would get within measurable distance of the Treasury bench. Yet this has been accomplished, and in spite of all the hostile efforts from the platform and in the press, backed up by all the wealthy institutions in Australia. No wonder that our friends on the other side are alarmed at the progress which has been made by the working, classes. Only a few days ago they were triumphant and militant, while awaiting confidently the result of the elections in New South Wales. They believed that the industrial classes were to be again levelled to the dust by the aid of a mercenary press, the publication of a tissue of misrepresentations, and the backing of the wealthy associations that have always acted against Labour. But they have become very quiet since last Saturday. I have noticed no noisy demonstrations in the press or in Parliament upon the results achieved by the industrial classes of New South Wales on Saturday last.
– Our opponents cannot say that they did not have fair play and fine weather. -
– They had the advantage of every favourable circumstance they could desire, yet they miserably failed. On next Saturday, or the Saturday following, there may, in the second ballots, be a slight reverse in store for Labour, but nothing can happen which will not establish the fact that in New South Wales to-day the industrial classes are as much alive to their own interests as they have ever been in the history of Australia. Unionism has been necessary in the interests of the industrial classes from even the earliest ages. It can be demonstrated that the principles embodied in industrial unionism are the principles of co-operation, association, Socialism, or whatever honorable senators like to call it, and the forces that have been operating against it are the forces of individualism, self-interest, greed, and selfishness in every shape and form. These forces were not born yesterday or the day before. They did not come into existence one hundred or one thousand years ago; they have existed as long as the human race. The very day that Cain killed his brother and then declared he was not his brother’s keeper there was given a striking example of individualism.
– That was the birth of the so-called Liberal party.
– It was the birth of the individualistic movement, and a mark was placed upon it, showing to this day the disfavour of the Almighty. The history of the world in the past, as well as to-day, indicates that the association, co-operation, and binding together of the people is the work of Providence. If we recall the history of Israel in Egypt we shall be reminded that the destroying angel passed by the doors; the lintels and doorposts of which were sprinkled with blood. That was the mark of unionism, and the angel passed over those homes and spared them. Up to to-day it is the sign manual of righteousness, in my opinion. It is the sign of the coming together of helpless people for the protection of their own interests against the forces of selfishness and greed. Consequently, I hold that we are amply justified in doing all we possibly can to promote trade unionism and industrial unionism, with which we have been so rauch associated all our lives. There is not a single honorable senator on this side who has not had personal experience* of the efficacy and benefits of tradeunionism. There is not one who, at onetime or another, has not suffered inconvenience because he has dared to associate himself with his fellow workersfor their mutual protection. I .can remember the time when I had to work, sixty hours a week, and, for working as hard as ever I did in my life,. I received 12s. a week. I know the struggle we had in the different institutions in connexion with which I laboured? to reduce the hours of labour and improve our working conditions. I -know the difficulties we had to overcome, after the hours of labour were reduced, tosecure a little higher wages. If honorable senators consider the history of trade unionism in Great Britain, they will find that, although they have increased the wages of nearly all the people- by 50 per cent., yet to-day the wages in that country represent only a miserablepittance after all. Only a few monthsago the railway servants had to strike in Great Britain for a minimum wage of £1 per week. That is an indication of the struggle which the working classeshave had to make to rise from the conditions in which Labour was a few yearsago. How can it be expected that, with our experience of these things, we willi not do all we possibly can, whether in power or out of power, to promote the interests of trade unionism. We believethat this course is in the best interest* of the people, and also of the Government of the country. It is quite truethat, so far as giving legislative effect, to preference to unionists is concerned,, we have had a determined struggle, evert in this Federal Parliament itself. Honorable senators will recollect, when theproposal first came before the House of Representatives, the disturbance anc? turmoil it caused. They will remember that, when it came before the Senate, the present Honorary Minister, Senator Clemons, did all he possibly could to defeat that principle, as embodied in the first. Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Honorable senators also know that, when the Labour party got intopower they did all they possibly could to establish preference to unionists by giving power to the Court, of Conciliation and Arbitration to deal with the matter, and that they carried! their firm principles and convictions into, effect wherever possible, where everything else was equal, by giving preference to unionists in Government employment. I say to the Ministry in power to-day, and to the opponents of the Labour party, that, if ever a Labour Government is returned to power again they will revert to “that preference to unionists just as strongly as it was given in the past. It is to the advantage of a Government to have the power to get workmen, who, -through their associations, have the privilege of knowledge of each other’s efficiency. I have worked in Australia where, if non-unionists were employed, I -would be in fear for my life all the time. Through their association in the trade union movement for years, men know that all their mates are efficient workers, but where, through force of circumstances, they are compelled to work with a nonunionist, they do not know his efficiency. What a nice thing it would be with a few men, a non-unionist amongst them, proceeding up a ladder, one after another, carrying bricks, if the non-unionist tumbled down, not only injuring himself, but endangering the lives of the other men ! That is one of the reasons why trade unionists are always prepared to give preference to their own men. And so it should be in Government ^employment. Departmental officers must recognise that the day is fast approaching when almost every worker in Australia will be included in some form of unionism, and that until that day arrives it is -wise, when work is available, to give it to the men who are best adapted to it. Those men are always to be found in the ranks of unionism. It is wrong for the present Government to attempt to destroy that slight meed of preference that has been given to those who have in the past made such sacrifices. If it is claimed that there is justification for nonunionists getting the same advantages from a. Government, or any one else, I should like to hear some argument in support of the claim. If a number of men band together and pay weekly con.tributions to a union, and take the -trouble of attending meetings and carrying on their association, and through those contributions and that association secure advantages, industrially and otherwise, is it fair that selfish, careless and indifferent individuals, who have not contributed a penny, sacrificed a minute of their time, or done anything to assist their fellow workers or improve their own conditions, should come in and reap those advantages? No section of the fairminded Australian public would imagine there was justice’ in such a demand. Only those who have striven, suffered, and paid for these advantages and concessions should enjoy them. I would ask our friends on the other side of the Chamber, who, I am sure, are not devoid of intelligence, how, if they are living in a municipality where they contribute high rates for the purpose of making good streets and footpaths and having a welllighted district with good sanitary conditions, a good water supply, and everything of that description, they would like a stranger to come along and settle in the municipality and refuse to pay rates. Would not there be preference to the ratepayers who pay their rates straight away, and would not the individual not prepared to contribute his fair share to the upkeep of the municipality be hounded out of it as quickly as possible ; and, if he continued te refuse to pay his rates, be brought before a Court, sold up, and have his effects taken from him in order to fulfil his obligations to the municipality? That is a correct illustration of what unionism and non-unionism really mean. If the producers in Australia were to combine to establish a creamery, or a butter factory, take up shares, and do all they possibly could to promote an industry of such importance to themselves and the country, would they not show preference to the members of their own association; and would any Tom, Dick, or Harry who came along and endeavoured to take away some of the benefits in which they alone should participate, be treated as the Government are attempting to treat non-unionists today? Certainly not. He would not receive from the producers, or any one else, a moment’s consideration, through not being within the charmed circle. Again, even in the simple bringing together of a few settlers for the purpose of selling their produce, or buying necessities with which to carry on their industry, if they joined together for such, a purpose, and paid a few shillings in the way of contributions, no Government in. Australia would pass a law preventing them from conferring benefits on each other, or declaring that the same facilities, and tha same benefits and profits, should be shared by the members of the association with those outside, who did not spend time, trouble, or expense in endeavouring to gain benefits for themselves. If fairminded people would look at this question of preference to unionists from that point of view, they would at once come to the conclusion that when members of trade unions spend their money and time, and suffer, and do all they possibly can to improve their own conditions, they are entitled to preference of employment, not only in industries outside the influence of the Government, but also in the Government employment. They should have just that same preference in Government employment to which those outside Government employment are entitled by legislative enactment. I hope the Bill will be treated by the Opposition with that contempt with which it deserves to be treated by all the people of Australia.
.- The appeal of the honorable member to treat the measure with the contempt it deserves will, no doubt, fall on willing ears; but, as lt is quite apparent to me that the Leader of the Government in another place is anxious to have a political fight upon it, I am quite sure that when the gauntlet is thrown down our own party are always prepared to take it up, more quickly, perhaps, than there is any occasion for. I propose to appeal to honorable senators on both sides of the Chamber to treat this measure in exactly the same way as they treated the Postal Voting Bill yesterday, by allowing it to go into Committee, so that, at any rate, we may improve it, and send it back to another place with amendments calculated to make it more acceptable to them, and to the people generally. I propose to move in Committee, if the Bill reaches that stage, that the following words be added to the title: - “and to give preference to Australians in all branches of the Commonwealth Public Service.” I propose further .to move the following as a new clause -
I am quite sure that, judging by the spirit in which the measure was introduced in another place, the Leader of the Government there will be only too. willing to meet us if we send the. measure back with sensible amendments of this character. I see no reason why we should anticipate a disastrous struggle on a measure of this kind if it is properly amended. Here is a Government picking out as one of the questions on which toforce a double dissolution a subject more calculated to arouse the heated feelingsof the people outside than any other they could possibly have selected.
– They want to make it a class fight, and they will get it.
– Wise statesmanship would try to avoid in every way involving the representative of His Majesty in the Commonwealth in a class fight. If the Government brought about a double dissolution on a measure of thiskind, forty-five representatives of the antiLabour party - thirty-eight in another place and seven in this House - would force the representative of his Majesty in the Commonwealth to give a decision, which would involve the sending of sixtysix members of this Parliament, elected on exactly the same franchise, back for re-election by the people who, by an overwhelming majority, have already sent them here. That aspect of this question might well have been> considered by any Government who were not anxious to mix the King’s representative in the Commonwealth upin the most heated parliamentary struggle that is ever likely to eventuate in Australia. I advise Ministers to try torealize their responsibilities, not only toAustralia, but to the rest of the Empire. I am endeavouring to warn them now, before heated feelings are aroused in the turmoil of one or more general elections, tolook ahead and see what is in store for the party who are prepared, like the desperate political gamblers that they are, to stake everything on the chance of something turning up at a general election to give them a little firmer hold on office than the slippery grip which they have at the present moment.
– They do not expect a double dissolution on this Bill.
– If they do not, the hollow pretence which they are making to the public is even more despicable- than any I thought the present Government were capable of, and I have a very poor opinion of them, believing them capable of a good many things that decent men would avoid. Here is a Bill to prohibit preference in the Public Service. It is not a Bill to repeal any measure now in <existence. There are Acts passed by this Parliament which have enabled the Courts, particularly the Arbitration Court, to give preference to thousands of trade unionists. The Government have not the courage to attack those preference awards. They are simply putting up a man of straw to knock him down again. If they are opposed to preference altogether, why have they not the courage to bring down a measure proposing to abolish it in all cases in which it has been already awarded by a Judge in the Arbitration Court? If they were prepared to do this, they could claim to have the courage of their convictions. They are opposed to preference in every shape and form; but I support it for the simple reason that if we do not give preference to unionists by law, the power-holding and employing class will give preference to non-unionists. It is not a question of preference or no preference, but a question of preference to unionists as against preference to non-unionists; and if preference must be given to any section, it should te given to that section of the community who have spent their time and money in strengthening unionism in order to improve the living conditions of the people throughout the Commonwealth. The Government, however, have no sense of justice, although their leader now still makes it his boast from the public platform that the union to which he belonged about twenty years ago would not only demand, but enforce, preference by the old method of the strike; and that, if he were again engaged in the same industrial struggle, he would again seek to -enforce it.
– That is only when he is talking to his Lithgow friends. He does not mean it.
– I have no doubt that he has to speak with one voice to his Lithgow friends, and with another voice to his master, Mr. Irvine. . He must have two voices in the Cabinet, in order to be sure of retaining the position which he at present holds as the chief repre sentative of those organizations which move in the most select society, and perhaps only permit him to lead because his ability as a leader is of use to them. They do not permit him to lead in the direction in which his earlier inclinations would probably have taken him. The Bill is merely a declaration by the Government of their intention to do something which they claim that they have already done. They assert that by a minute they have already decided that in the Public Service of the Commonwealth no preference shall be given. There is another point which they are endeavouring to cloud over. I understand that the Government have nothing to do with deciding who shall be employed in the Public Service, and who shall not, but that the matter rests with the Public Service Commissioner. If that is the case, this Bill will be so much waste paper, unless the two Houses accept my amendments, which will be an intimation to the Public Service Commissioner and the Government that in future, all other things being equal, preference shall be given to Australians in appointments to the service. It is a reasonable proposal to put forward. I am not going to hold the Government solely responsible for the objectionable practice that has been growing up, because they have not yet been sufficiently long in office to appoint over the heads of Australians many imported people. Distance lending enchantment to the view, Australian Governments seem to imagine that Australians are inferior to people whom they bring across the water to fill high positions.
– They have been long enough in office to bring out experts of all descriptions to try to undo all the things that we have done.
– They have been long enough in office to start along that broad path which to me, as an Australian, is objectionable, because Governments, not only in the Federal Parliament but in the State Parliaments, instead of giving the high appointments to men who have grown grey in the service, and know every detail of the work, have time and again awarded the positions to men who come fresh into the Departments and have to make themselves acquainted with duties and conditions altogether foreign to them. The Government have introduced a make-believe measure, into which I should like to put something really tangible, so that we may see how it will be- treated when sent back to its authors. If, however, the Senate is anxious to let the Government appeal to the country on this measure, I shall not be behind-hand in taking up the challenge. I regret that the Government do not make some measure of first rate importance, that will have some weight with the community, the test question on which to go to the electors. They have introduced a miserable Bill calculated to make even their most ardent supporters sick and tired of the pretence, and to humiliate them in the eyes of all sensible people. The Bill could be amended in a number of ways to make it more acceptable. It could be made to provide, for instance, that no members of secret societies - particularly those societies which are exclusively, or at any rate largely, composed of the wealthy section of the community - shall be’ given undue preference in employment in the Public Service. I may well warn the Government that, if they are going to introduce a Bill which is a direct challenge to and a direct attack upon the trade unionism of Australia, succeeding Governments, perhaps even more advanced than the last Labour Government, may introduce a measure prohibiting preference to members of secret societies in the Public Service. When we find members of secret organizations of that kind dominating the rest of the community, we may well determine to drive from office those members of the same society whose undue influence has enabled so many of their friends to obtain positions in the service. This Bill is one of the most dangerous that could be introduced. The Government are acting like a man who throws matches about in our dry grass country, utterly reckless of the consequences. With their characteristic shortsightedness, they are throwing matches about in the dry grass of the Public Service, and may cause a conflagration that all their bush-beating and fire brigades will not be able to put out. If they throw out a direct challenge of this kind to unionism to organize in antagonism to them, they will find that hundreds and thousands of unionists who largely helped to return them to power at the last election, because they could never be made to believe that the Government were their real enemies, will suddenly awake to the fact. I am sure that
Senator Oakes, must have received the* votes of a large number of trade unionistsill Sydney at the last election, but I shall, be surprised if a single trade unionist, supports him again after this petty attack upon unionism. Most trade unionist*, would appreciate the Government andi their supporters more if they made a bold,, vigorous and open attack upon them. They would appreciate honorable senatorsopposite more if they tried to wipe out. preference from the Law Courts and! would meet them in a fair fight.
– We believe in liberty and equality; that is the trouble.
– The honorablesenator talks of liberty, equality and fraternity. He is away back in the period of the French Revolution. I believed, that he was about a hundred years behind; the times, but I did not think he was. quite so far behind as he has suggested. For whom is the liberty sought? Libertyfor the non-unionists; liberty for the? scabs and the blacklegs; liberty for thesection who have fought their own class, during the whole time they have hadvotes in the country, but have neverhelped them. Such is the gratitude that. Senator Oakes shows to the thousands of unionists who he admits voted for him.!. When he goes before the people again, holding in his hand this petty attack on> unionism, this mean attempt to discredit, unionism, this mean and cowardly pretence of a Government not capable of” rising with sufficient courage to fight: trade unionism straight out, will hestill smoodge to unionists and ask them; for their votes in the name of liberty,, equality, and fraternity?
– If I smoodged tothem, I would do exactly what you do.
– The honorablesenator would do exactly what I say if hedid what I have stated. He claimed that he got their votes, and I credit him withhaving received them. I recognise that if it were not for the votes of many unioniststhere would not be any Liberals in this Chamber or the other. Unionism, roused’ as it will be by such measures as this one, will be sufficiently powerful not to leave seven senators representing here thepowerholding classes, but will wipe themright out’ of existence.
– We will take our chance.
– Why do the party who seem to object to the stirringup of class hatred seek to pass measures that must involve the country in a class fight? Why do they seek to make these the questions on which to ask for a double dissolution ? There are two answers to ray question. I think that the first answer to be given is the only one that need be given, and that is that members of the Government know very well that no (representative of His Majesty would ever grant a dissolution of both Houses to a party on a miserable measure of this kind. They have introduced the measure with the full knowledge that such a specious pretence can never receive the support of any one in this community, and therefore St is a little measure which, with a flourish of trumpets, a few big headlines and a fac simile published in the Argus or other Melbourne newspaper, they can afford to allow to die, and no one will mourn or weep over its death. That is what the Government are trying to do in this case. There is no sincerity behind their professions. They are not in earnest in what they are doing. If they were in earnest, why should we not have important measures to deal with ? Just as a straw shows, how a stream runs, these legislative straws - these petty attacks on unionism - show that, if ever the Liberals did get a majority in this Parliament, it would be a case of good-bye to all those big, broad principles which our Government has so firmly placed on the statutebook. It would be a case of good-bye to the system of old-age and invalid, pensions.
– It may be rats, but the man who said that he was going to introduce-
– That party is mainly composed of rats !
– Senator Oakes has said “ rats “ to my remark that the Liberal party would, if they could, wipe out the system of old-age and invalid pensions, but I refer him to the statement of Mr. W. H. Irvine, the AttorneyGeneral of the present Government. I ask whether he did not publicly state that the policy of the party with which Senator Oakes is associated was to substitute a system of national insurance for the present system of old-age pensions and maternity allowance? If I cannot show from the files of the Argus that, in April last, the present Attorney-General was, according to that newspaper, acting in accord with the other members of his party in that matter, I am willing to resign my seat, conditionally on Senator Oakes doing the same.
– Does the honorable senator say “in substitution?”
– Yes. Have we now an indication that if the Liberals could get a majority in this Parliament there would be a real attack made on the people of Australia? Are they now feeling their way to ascertain how Parliament and how the people regard their proposal ? Perhaps, if satisfied with the reception of the present proposal, the Government will go a little further. It has not yet had the courage to make a bold plunge, and to place before the Senate even one measure of first-rate importance, giving effect to its programme on the last election. After six months of office, we have put before us only such measures as this to prohibit preference of employment to men because of membership of organizations. Why not prohibit preference because of membership of a secret society, or of a religious community, or because of the possession of black hair or blue eves? We know that the measure, even if passed, would have no effect; that the time of Parliament is being wasted, and its forms misused to delude the people with makebelieve legislation. Even Senator Oakes, the newest recruit to the party, who does not understand much of what is. taking place, is not weak enough to consider the Bill a tangible proposal for legislation. We know that unionists from one end of the Commonwealth to the other will get no preference from this Government unless they are members of the Packer Union, or of the scab and strike-breakers unions. Why not introduce a Bill to prevent persons of that kind from getting preference? The Labour party had an overwhelming majority in both Houses in the last Parliament, but it did not take advantage of it to place make-believe legislation on the statute-book, although we could have passed legislation which our opponents could not have repealed.
– Why was it not done?
– Because ours was a self-respecting Government, which would not meanly deceive the people, but wished to live by its adherence to political principles instead of by: deception, fraud, and misrepresentation. If the Bill goes into Committee I shall move to insert in the title, after the words “ membership or non-membership of an association,” the words “ and to give preference to Australians in all branches of the Commonwealth Service.” I shall also move to insert after the words “ after the passing of this Act” these words -
The Government and the Public Service Commissioner shall give preference to Australians, other things being equal, in all branches of the Commonwealth Service. For the purposes of this Act an Australian shall mean any person three years resident in the Australian Commonwealth.
– Why not say twentyfour hours?
– Because that would enable this Government to continue its system of importing men to take the prizes of the Public Service. I want the members of the Public Service to have a fair deal. Men ought not to grow grey in the Public Service only to find that persons brought from abroad are given the higher positions which they have qualified themselves to fill. My amendment, if carried, will prevent the Government from favouring their friends across the water, and filling places that Australians should fill.
– Hitherto Senator Clemons, in introducing Bills, has been cool, calm, and collected, and by his courtesy and informative style has set an example worthy of the emulation of the other Ministers. I never had a greater surprise, therefore, than when he let himself loose in introducing this measure. He worked himself almost into a state of frenzy, and when I called attention to his manner, one or two senators said that it was Senator Clemons in his true light. He stated that during the last political campaign the one question that had burnt itself into the soul of the electors of Tasmania was prohibition of preference to unionists. If that be so, it is not to be wondered at that Tasmania is in the backwash of Australian progress. Fancy the question of the abolition of preference to unionists in Government employ overshadowing in importance such questions as the defence of Australia, or the financial position of the Commonwealth, or Free Trade versus Protection, or the Maternity Allowance Act, or the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. When these measures were submitted to Parliament at the instance df the
Labour Government, strong exception was taken to many of them by our opponents. Indeed, many members of the socalled Liberal party declared that they would amend or repeal them whenever the opportunity for so doing presented itself. Consequently I cannot understand the attitude of Senator Clemons, and I donot know why such a matter as this should have so agitated the people of Tasmania during the elections which took place in May last. In round numbers, there are about 29,000 Commonwealth employes to-day, of whom 17,000 are permanent employes. Whether the permanent employes are unionists or nonunionists, does not matter. So far as they are concerned, we know that entry to the Public Service can be obtained only by one means, namely, by a competitive examination, and by applicants passing a satisfactory test. Preference to unionists cannot affect this class of the service. No matter what Government may be in power - whether it be a Labour or an anti-Labour Government - the permanent employes of the Commonwealth cannot bo affected by the principle of preference to unionists. Then there areabout 12,000 casual employes of the Commonwealth. When the Honorary Minister was moving the second reading of this Bill, I asked him a question which I thought was a very pertinent one. I inquired whether it was not a fact that the Government had publicly announced that it is their intention to abolish the day labour system in connexion with all Commonwealth works. He replied that the question was not relevant, and brushed it aside. I now ask him to bear with me for a moment while I show that it was strictly relevant. No doubt he realized its relevance at the time, and desired to avoid giving the answer which I anticipated he would give.
– No, I did not.
– There are, I repeat, about 12,000 casual employes in the Commonwealth Service. The majority of them are engaged on the day labour system. Prior to the present Government coming into office, the principle of preference to unionists applied to a large number of them; but when the Ministry came into power, they abolished preference to unionists. They have since declared their intention to abolish the day labour system. If they do so, all Commonwealth works, will, in future, be carried out by contract. If they are so carried out, unionists, and unionists only, will be employed upon them, because there is not a big contractor in any part of Australia who would dream of undertaking large works - assuming that he wished to carry them out expeditiously and satisfactorily - with the aid of any but union labour. Thus Government money will be paid to these contractors, who, in turn, will pay it to the unionists. The last-named, therefore, will be no worse off under this Bill than they are today. Now, we all know that many newspapers throughout Australia have declared against preference to unionists. I wish to say, in all seriousness, that there would not be a daily newspaper published to-morrow in any city in the Commonwealth if its proprietors practised what they preached. I have an intimate knowledge of newspapers, and I have, too, a fairly extensive knowledge of unionism. I know that about thirty years ago unionism was not by any means as strong in any part of the Commonwealth as it is to-day. At that time, in some of our newspaper offices, the principles of unionism could not be too rigidly enforced. But to-day, in every big newspaper office in Australia, every employe is, I believe, a unionist. The man who damps the paper in the machine room belongs to a union, the man who attends the printing machine belongs to a union, and the man who makes up the parcels for the post and for the trains and who puts the labels upon them belongs to a union. . Higher up in the building we come to the readers who are supplied with proofs of the matter that has been set up on the linotype machines. All these men - in Victoria, at least - are, I believe, unionists. Next door to the readers, in one or two of the offices in the city with which I am familiar, is the stereotyping room in which every man employed belongs to a union. Higher up we have the editorial sanctum and the literary staff, and almost every man on the literary staffs of all the daily papers in Australia today are members of a union. I do not speak of all the men who write in the editorial columns, because there are a few “squirts” and “squibs” on the journalistic staffs of some of the newspapers in Australia. These wish to be all things to all men, and to reap the fruits of unionism, but, like some of the blacklegs in the industrial sphere, they refuse to contribute their quota to the associations which have made their lot, and the lot of the average journalist in Australia, very much better to-day than at any time previously. But the members of the Journalists’ Association would not be in their present position to-day in regard to wages, hours, and general conditions if it were not for the undivided support given them by the typographical associations from one end of Australia to the other. Next, in the daily newspaper office, we come to the linotypers, every one of whom is a member of a union. When the Fisher Government was in power, it declared for preference to unionists, all things being equal; but that policy has no application to daily newspapers. It would not matter if a non-union man were the best linotyper, machinist, or stereotyper that the world could produce, if he did not belong to a union, not a newspaper proprietor in any of the big cities would take the risk of employing him unless he consented to join. The proprietors know very well that if they introduced a non-union man all the unionists would cease to do another bitof work, and there would be no newspaper on the morrow.
– It seems to be a question of might, not right.
– It is a question of right. I have not, and never have had, any sympathy for what I call the true non-unionist- the man who desires to enjoy the shorter hours, better wages, and better conditions generally brought about by unionism, but who is too mean and too contemptible to contribute to its upkeep. “He is a pirate, and I have no time for pirates who wish to unfairly enjoy all the good that unionism has done for the workers throughout Australia. Whatever the non-unionist may think of unionism, he must know that conditions have been made better for him by the efforts of organized labour; and that the wages of non-unionists are governed by the conditions created by unionists who,, for years and years, have struggled in Australia and in different parts of the world. Many of these unionists have shortened their lives by their strenuous work, and in the early history of the movement in the old world, we know that some of them were transported to Botany Bay for advocating the rights of. organized labour. Prior to 1890 there was a belief in the minds of many trade unionists that unionism in itself was a. panacea for all the ills with which we are afflicted. They had an idea that as soon as men and women were got into trade unions we should be approaching the millennium. However, in 1890, there occurred that memorable struggle known as the Maritime Strike. Our opponents in those days said, “ Why do working men strike? Why do they not settle their differences in a peaceful, constitutional manner? Why do they not send men to Parliament to look after their interests, and to improve their conditions to such an extent that strikes will become a tiling of the past? “ The working men of Australia acted on the advice given them by their opponents and- a number of employers. They sent men to Parliament, but they sent more than many of our opponents anticipated. As soon as unionism became an active industrial and political force, our opponents “ got their backs up,” and to-day they are just as violently and vigorously opposed to true unionism as they were when unionism first saw the light of day. In their heart of hearts ti lose who support this Bill have no time for trade unionism, as we know it to-day.
– They have for Packer’s crowd.
– That is not true unionism - -that is an illegitimate organization in the sense that it would not be recognised by the Trades Hall, which is the home of organized labour. It is illegitimate in the sense that you can never have true unionism that is favoured, supported, and kept alive by employers. This unionism, to which passing reference has been made, was brought into existence, for what purpose? It has the support, I know, of Senator McColl, who gave it his blessing, and sent it a congratulatory message, which was published in a paper called the Square Deal. I do not know whether that paper is still in existence, but it was said to be the official journal of the organization. I wish to say to Senator McColl that this organization is admittedly part and parcel of the Employers’ Federation. Mr. Blackwood, when in London, made a statement regarding it, which was published in that city, and also in the official journal of the Employers’ Federation, Liberty and Progress, on 9th March, 1912, I think it was Senator Pearce who first drew public attention to this statement. What is the real object of this independent workers’ organization ?
– Well, that is the title of it. It is not independent, but, on the contrary, is absolutely dependent on the support and sustenance it receives from the employers of Australia. It has been brought into existence to try to undermine true unionism, but it has no chance whatever of doing that, although it has the blessing and benediction of Senator McColl. This organization, to which that honorable senator wishes well, and which -he helps in every possible way, has, as its cardinal rule, preference to unionists, so far as its members are concerned.
– Mr. Blackwood was asked a question regarding that.
- Mr. Blackwood, and the officers of this illegitimate organization, say that if the men will join and pay contributions, they will see that the members get employment from the employers of Australia in preference to other men, no matter how good those other men may be.
– Blackwood said more. He said he would not employ them unless they first join the association.
– I say they must join the association, and I expect they have to take an oath to be true and faithful to their bosses, and thankful to their employers for the contributions which enable the organization to continue to exist. This, organization recently held a series of “hurricane” meetings. Every speaker was allowed one minute, and in fifteen minutes there were fifteen speakers. We can imagine Senator McColl at one of these meetings, letting himself go at express speed for one minute.
– The honorable senator would be a perfect willy-willy.
– It is a case of “ keep off the grass “ when Senator McColl gets going for one minute against unionism. When he gets amongst the farmers unionism is anathema to him.
– It would take him an hour then to say what he has to say.
– The honorable senator never tires of denouncing modern trade unionism, in particular parts of the country. He is very cautious and careful as to the parts of the State in which he denounces it. In the metropolitan area, where unionism is strong, he sings a very different song from that which he sings in the country districts. The honorable senator has two voices. One for the “dry” and other farmers, and another for the residents of the metropolitan area. The unionists in the metropolitan area of Melbourne are commencing to realize who are their friends and who are their foes. Senator Gardiner has said that Senator Oakes received a large measure of support from unionists in New South Wales. I am satisfied that Senator McColl could not have scored the vote he did in May last if he also had not received a number of votes of trade unionists. But I feel perfectly sure that the number he -received will, after this, be very considerably lessened. This Bill will cut no ice whatever. It will not affect a single man, woman, or child in Australia. No one -knows that better than those who have been responsible for its introduction.
– Will its only result be to help the honorable senator’s party?
– It is only a humbugging measure.
– It is a humbugging measure of the worst possible description. The Government said that if they were seated on the Treasury bench they intended to introduce a Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in such a way that no preference could be given by the Court to organizations that utilized their funds for political purposes. They promised an amendment of the Act to exclude all rural workers from its operations.
– Senator McColl made a great point of that in the country.
– That is so. Why have not the Government the courage to come forward with a comprehensive measure, and declare war on organized labour throughout Australia? They want war. They say that they deplore class hatred, but no Government have ever done more to create and foster class hatred in Australia than have the present Federal Government. Senator McColl never loses an opportunity to make a violent and vitriolic attack upon organized labour and modern trade unionism - in certain quarters. He believes that in making these statements - which in nine cases out of ten he cannot confirm, and has had to withdraw when challenged-
– No; I have not withdrawn anything.
– The honorable senator believes that by making these statements in the country he will be able to get a large vote from the primary producers. But the primary producers of Australia are commencing to realize the fact that they were absolutely fooled at the elections which were decided in May by the lies which were told concerning labourism and trade unionism. The members of the present Government and their supporters told their friends that if they voted against Labour that would be the end of the rural workers’ log. It would be settled, and no more would be heard about it. It is commencing to dawn now on the farmers and primary producers of Australia that it would have been better for their peace of mind, and for their pockets, if they had accepted the advice which we gave them on that occasion, that instead of fighting against the Rural Workers Union they should meet them and go to the Federal Arbitration Court and have the claim that is called a “log” considered and dealt with by a Judge of that Court. What has happened since the last election 1 Disputes have arisen in different parts of Australia amongst the primary producers and rural workers, and, in some cases, according to press reports, the rural workers have been able to demand more than they were asking in the claim or log that has been drawn up. The farming community of Australia have very little to thank the supporters and members of the present Government for in the advice they gave them” in May last, and the promises which they made, that, if they were returned, they would assist in the introduction of a Bill to amend the Federal Arbitration Act with the object of excluding all rural workers from the operation of that measure. This is the Government that, according to Senator Oakes, believes in equality, fraternity - and something else.
– Do not forget “ liberty.”
– Of course; that is so much flapdoodle. The Prime Minister and Senator McColl have claimed t that the present Government believe in equal opportunity for all. Yet these gentlemen who mouth this phrase seek to deny to a very large section of the workers of Australia the opportunity to go to the Federal Arbitration Court, which is enjoyed by the city workers. Why should there be any differentiation between town and city workers? Senator McColl will say to the members of a farming family that the sons who go to the city to secure work may join a union and go along with their fellow unionists to the Federal Arbitration Court to get better wages and better conditions of labour, but that the sons who are not desirous of going to the city and go to work for neighbouring farmers should not have that same opportunity. When speaking in the. metropolitan area Senator McColl says that all workers should have the opportunity of going to the Federal Arbitration Court - he knows that if he does not say so he will lose votes - but in the country he says “ Keep away from the Federal Arbitration Court. You must not go there,” and when the man in the country says “ Why not? I am a worker - the same as the city man,” Senator McColl says - only to himself - “ If you go to the Court unionism will become strong in the country, and I shall become politically weak, therefore, although I mouth the phrase of equal opportunity to all, I must oppose your going to the Court.”
– You might as well argue that if a man has the opportunity to drown himself others should drown themselves.
– There is nothing to prevent senators drowning themselves, but if they fail, and a policeman catches them, they will find it is illegal to try to commit suicide. There is nothing illegal in men joining unions. The Employers Federation, and some members of the present Government, would, if they had the . power, abolish trade unionism.
– I have just as much right to say you would kill non-unionists if you had the power.
– History shows that men have had to make endless sacrifices in order to bring about the legalizing of trade unionism. A century ago the law did not permit men to join together for mutual advancement, and some of those who joined in trade unions were transported to Botany Bay. Even half-a-century ago it was illegal for men to combine in an organization and demand an increase in wages and better conditions of work, and for combining together in order to improve conditions of work the men’s leaders were cited on charges of, conspiracy, and were convicted and transported for seven years. But so strong was the agitation in Great Britain against that punishment that petitions, signed by thousands of people, were presented to the British Parliament, and mainly owing to the interest aroused through the severity of that penalty a law was passed legalizing trade unionism, and as a result unions were formed in every colony of Australia. Not long ago the Employers’ Federation met in Brisbane, and one resolution that was unanimously carried was in favour of freedom of contract, which meant that they wished to employ whom they liked, work them as long as they liked, and pay them what they liked. By those methods they hoped to weaken, and, later on, undermine, trade unionism. But there is little chance of breaking up trade unionism in Australia. It has a foothold; it is strong industrially and politically. Our opponents, who are backed by all the Employers’ Unions of Australia, seek to weaken unionism by introducing this Bill as a sort of feeler, just to see how it will get on, to see what the newspapers will say about it, and to see how high the kite will fly. If it will not fly any height it will be dropped like a hot potato. And so it should be dropped, because it is a superfluous measure. It will not affect one man, woman, or child in Australia, and all that it purports to do was done by administrative act. so soon as the present Government came into office.
– Do you say it will not do any good ?
– I say that it will not affect a single individual in Australia, so far as the Commonwealth service is concerned.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– I have already pointed out that if we are to penalize the whole of the electors of the Commonwealth by forcing a general election to decide something which has already been decided, those responsible for such action will deserve severe condemnation from every fair-minded man and woman in Australia. I have also made clear the hollowness and inanity of the outpourings of a number of Government supporters in this and another place when they were before the electors. The Government who professed to be extremely solicitous about the welfare and betterment of the working classes, but who, since the election, have said that they are in favour of equal opportunities for all, have, at the same time, expressed their determination to differentiate between town and country workers. Such men may well be characterized as political poltroons who say that good conditions are desirable for the industrial workers in cities and towns, but are inimical to workers in the rural districts. What is bemud this measure? Do the Government make bold to say that they will ignore any award made by -the Federal Arbitration Court in respect to Government employes? Will they take up the attitude that although there may oe in the employment of the Commonwealth casual and permanent workers, and although those classes may belong to trade organizations, if an award be made, it will not be applicable to all the workers alike? If they take up that attitude it would be very paradoxical and tantamount to saying, “ Court or no Court, we will pay our employes what we lute, and work them under what conditions we choose to apply? “ That would be a bold declaration, tantamount to saying that the Government have no time for organized labour and will do all in their power to weaken the operations of industrial unionism. If they are prepared to maintain that position, the members of this party are ready to meet them. What is the Conciliation and Arbitration Court for ? For the purpose of settling disputes between employes and employers, irrespective of whether they are in Government or private employment. A man may be in the service of the Commonwealth to-day and in private employment to-morrow. In any case he is entitled to the same consideration in respect to awards made by the Court. Do the Government agree to that proposition? If an award be made by the Court, does the Honorary Minister agree that it should be applicable to all members of a trade union, whether they be in the service of the Commonwealth or private individuals.
– The only answer to that is that no Government, any more than a private individual, can set aside an award of the Arbitration Court.
– That answer meets a proposition which I shall submit when the Bill reaches the Committee stage. I intend to move that after the word “Association,” in clause 2, the following words be added - “ other than that granted by an award or agreement made by or under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court or other industrial tribunal.” Before I sit down, I wish to say in all seriousness that when this Government came into office its members promised the people of Australia that they would introduce legislation which would be of a bold, progressive character. They said that they would force the pace, and that if we blocked their proposals they would appeal to the country. By no stretch of imagination cau these two Bills be considered to be of vital importance, nor can they be considered progressive or in any way calculated to improve the conditions of the people or advance the interests of the nation. Two senators from New South Wales in particular, when they were before the electors announced that if the antiLabour party were returned the people of Australia might depend upon it that the cost of living would be decreased and that rents would be lowered. Can either of these Bills, or both of them, by any stretch of imagination, be said to tend to lower rents and the cost of living ? As a matter of fact, if the Government had been faithful to their promises, they would have done something in the direction indicated;. But we know from statements made in the columns of the daily press, not merely from those in the industrial world, but from those connected with the commercial community, that the cost of living has increased since the general election. There is not the slightest shadow of doubt that in all parts of Australia to-day, especially in the city, rents have gone up enormously. The longer this Government is allowed to remain in power the dearer riving will become and the higher rents will be.
– It appears that on every Bill introduced in the Senate honorable senators show a disposition to wander into questions which are foreign to the measure before them. I have allowed large lattiude in this matter, but I ask the honorable senator not to pursue that line of argument any further. By no stretch of imagination can this Bill be held to cover such general matters and such large questions as the cost of living and the increase of rents.
– It was not my desire to add more than a few words to what I have said with respect to cheap living and the lowering of rents. I have touched on those matters because they were the chief cries of the anti-Labour party at the last election. I venture to say that’ the people would be sadly disappointed to find that the Government have taken no steps to decrease the cost of living or to lower rents. Instead of legislation in those directions we have a Preference Prohibition Bill, and a Bill for the restoration of the postal vote. Is it expected that, in consequence of this legislation, there will be general prosperity throughout the Commonwealth? Having indicated the amendment which I intend to move at a later stage, 1 do not desire to occupy further time, but express the hope that the Committee, on this Bil 1, will accept my proposal.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) [2.42J. - 1 wish to extend my sincere sympathy to the Government in their present unfortunate plight. ‘ We have here another sample of leaflet legislation. We were told at the last election that Australia had got into a very bad state indeed under the rule of the Labour Government, that there were many abuses to be wiped out, many remedies to be applied, and that they had been extravagant in administration from the erection of a laundry in the Northern Territory to the ordinary conduct of the Departments. The Government is in power with a majority of one in the other House. It has the benevolent help of the chief officer in the other branch of the Legislature to keep it alive. We were led to believe at election time that the party opposite would apply themselves most assiduously to giving the people of Australia benefits from their occupancy of the Treasury bench by wiping out a number of abuses that had occurred, and by bringing in progressive and advanced legislation. They have been in power several months, and the only attempt they have made to carry out this advanced, progressive, and Australian policy is by the introduction of the two leaflet proposals we have lately had before us. One was the proposal to restore the postal vote, of which we were as much in favour as Government supporters were, and the other is the Bill now before the Senate to remodel the Public Service within certain limits. Themountain has laboured and brought forth a leaflet. We, however, have an interestin seeing that the time of the .Federal. Parliament is not frittered away in wasteful efforts, such as the present one. We,, with a majority in the Senate, are justas much concerned as the Government are in seeing that this National Parliament does not waste its time uselessly and tono purpose on measures such aa. this. What is the present position ? We were told at the last election* that one of the bad practices - one of” the samples of maladministration - of the Labour Government was ir>. connexion with preference to unionistsThe electors throughout the Commonwealth were asked to give the Liberal” party power to abolish that practice. In Western Australia, the appeal was madewith the same force and lack of scrupleas was displayed elsewhere in the Commonwealth, yet that State sent back tothis Parliament men more strongly fortified than ever in their determination!, to support the Labour party in what, they had done. In South Australia, the ‘reply of the electors was to send back one more recruit to help theLiberal party in doing their nefariouswork. Queensland replied to the appeal by sending back more men, though byincreasing majorities, to maintain preference to unionists. ‘ Victoria stands in* about -the same position, if not a little better, whereas Tasmania has not receded from its position. We, therefore, have only one part of the Commonwealth which, owing to circumstances entirelyforeign to the issue, gave a chance majority to the Liberal party. But, viewing the Commonwealth at large, we have the spectacle of five States, not only standing firmly behind the Labour Administration in giving preference tounionists, but actually sending back to this Parliament more representatives to help and sustain that party in what they had done, that is, so far as the election aspect of the proposal is concerned.
In regard to the principle, the electors: were asked to believe that the Labour Government had given preference to. unionists without qualification. That, in itself, was one of those slim tales which have been the main characteristic of the Liberal party. They asked the electors ito believe that we gave preference unconditionally, which is not true:. The preference that was given was that, whenever a person presented himself for employment, if he showed indications of giving equal satisfaction and service to the Commonwealth, he should get preference if a unionist. But it was also laid down in no unmistakable fashion that even a non-unionist, if he gave better satisfaction than a unionist, was to be retained in the service. That is my reading of, and that is the construction which was put upon, the Labour act of administration, and that was condemned by our opponents. They did not go to the trouble of stating the actual fact. Oh, no; that would have told against them. On the contrary, they told the people far and wide that we were stuffing the Public Service with our own friends, with the representatives of one section in the industrial world, and all for the purpose of prejudicing the public mind against us; whereas the fact was that preference was given to unionists, all things being equal. If a non-unionist, I repeat, was giving better service to the taxpayers he was entitled to be retained, notwithstanding the fact that he was not a unionist. That is the position in its naked, unadorned form. Our opponents never went to the trouble of explaining that position, but we went to that trouble; and we had a lot of work to do in trying to root out of the public mind the false impression which our opponents are past-masters in creating against the Labour party. We did root it out to the extent that we got five States to sustain us. They are behind us to-day, and there is only one part of the Commonwealth which, owing to the introduction of foreign issues, gave a chance majority to the Liberal party which has enabled the Government to bring down this leaflet legislation.
We had better get to the nature of the proposal, and find out what it means, although I confess that it is hard to get at its genesis. In my judgment, it means that after a number of men have gone through a lot of work to create an industrial association, and members of it apply to the Government for work, they are not to get any . form of preference, indulgence, or recognition. So far, so good. It has to be remembered that we have not reached a stage when we should discourage any useful element in our society. In fact, the purpose of government is to recognise and. to assess at its true value any element that it finds manifesting its worth. That is the idea underlying government to-day.
– Oh, no.
– When we see any element in society that is making for an improvement of the condition of the people, either moral, or- physical, or industrial, the purpose of government is to help to nourish and to sustain that element. I appeal to the records to find any Government - Liberal or Labour - who have not set their eyes faithfully on that consummation. Take, for instance, what is done for literary men who write books - for what purpose ? In the main, for the purpose of elevating the moral tone of society and inducing their fellow human beings to get the truest conception of their relationship to society, and to improve upon past actions. In the Estimates,, we vote a sum to support the writers of books. I do not disagree with that practice for a moment. We also vote sums to encourage men of the type of Captain Scott, who went down to the Antarctic Continent, recognising the valour and heroism of the man, recognising that he is a type of our species whom we can well afford to encourage every time. He went down there to reveal, perhaps, hidden treasures, which have for so long lain under a veil. In the Estimates we voted £5,000 to encourage that expedition, signifying to the world that we were anxious to help such men because they deserve well of society. Agricultural societies, dog and poultry shows, at some time or other,, come in for some form of financial assistance and recognition at the hands of every State Government. When a trade union, which is engaged in an equally praiseworthy occupation - indeed, more so than some of the societies that I have referred to - asks, not for any particular financial assistance, but for a plain recognition of its status, the present Government come forward and say, “ Oh, no; although we recognise that trade unionism is a good thing, yet we shall place on your shoulders a handicap which you must bear.” We want to remove that handicap. We want Ministers to recognise that trade unionism in Australia is veritably the salt of society. No truer words were ever uttered by Gladstone than those in which he said that trade unionism was the bulwark of Democracy.
What are the present Ministers going to do with that bulwark?. They propose to tear it down and pulverize it. They desire, on the other hand, to elevate in its place that bane of society, the nonunionist, or anti-unionist, who will slink behind, and not take a fair part in building up the effort which has been the means of bringing about improved conditions for his fellow men. These men, in the past, everywhere .have reaped where they have not sown, and they have even cursed the men who have sown. These are the men whom the Ministry are trying to extol - that element in “society who have never done anything, never lifted a little finger to improve the material or moral conditions of their kind. The Ministry will not elevate and extol these men with the assistance of my vote, or that of the votes of my colleagues.
I have- not heard a member of the party in power to-day speak who did not openly profess that he did not believe in trade unionism. Some members of the party went so far as to say that unionism was a good thing. If it is a good thing, why not encourage it? So far from being encouraged, we find that the men who, denying themselves even those associations which are the just due of their wives and families, spend days and days in building up a union, and then spend time and substance in maintaining the union, are being ‘discouraged at the hands of the present Government. I do not think that they will get that far just yet, because this Bill has to pass the Senate, and there are here a number of men who have very definite instructions, and clear ideas of what has to be done. We are here to defend the bulwark of society. We are not going to allow any Ministry that happens to be in power by a chance majority to interfere with trade unionism. We have amongst trade unionists to-day men who are so independent and so self-sacrificing that they have not insisted upon getting any preference. That may be news to some of the Ministry. In congresses assembled in Australia we have had trade unionists who went so far as to say, “ We do not want this preference at all ; we can stand alone. Although we feel that we are entitled to preference, still we are prepared to stand on equal terms with others.” That indicates that, trade unionists to-day can show themselves to be just as brave and unselfish as they did in building up the unions.
The object of this measure is to discourage or kill unionism. I may be asked why I hold that opinion. If we look through the newspapers that fairly express the opinion of those who have always been against unionism, we are led to that conclusion. Take, for instance, the Insurance and Hanking Record, which represents the banking interests throughout the Commonwealth. In the “past, it has never refused or failed to give its benediction to the Liberal party. At the same time, it has never refused to point to the shortcomings of the Labour Administration, either in State or Federal politics. Again, take the Pastoralists’ Gazette, which I have read a few times. It represents the large landowning and squatting interests throughout the Commonwealth. It represents a type of employer who would, if he could, wipe out unionism, root and branch. We find that journal to-day, as it has been right through, in favour of the. present Government, and never losing a chance of condemning Labour, both in the State and Federal spheres of action. We have heard here tb-day that the organ which represents the opinion of the large employers throughout Australia has consistently supported the aims and the efforts of the so-called Liberal party, and has just as consistently opposed the claims, the programme, and the prospects of the Labour party. The famous declaration of Mr. Walpole, the mouthpiece of the Employers Federation, that marriage is a luxury, such as beer and tobacco, for which the employes should be called upon to pay, is a bulk sample of the behaviour of these men throughout Australia. The bankers, the large landed proprietors, the squatters, and the large employers have always been against unionism in every shape and form. It is quite true that they would put the best face on things, that they would dissemble their feelings, and, on occasions, would- say, “We recognise that unionism is a good thing.” But those of us who have been in the firing line, who have had to go abroad and interview employers during the past twenty years or more, will recollect clearly enough the animosity that we have had to encounter. I remember that men whose duty it was to interview employers in respect of union matters’ have, on various occasions, been warned off the premises. I was warned off myself by members of the Employers Federation. Have Ministers ever had that experience? Certainly not. They were born in another groove of life. There they have rusticated for years, altogether oblivious of the troubles and trials which are experienced by the wageearning class and their representatives. When we recall the hostile and inveterate opposition that has been evinced to the wageearners we are justified in claiming that the object of this Bill is to discourage unionism by the exercise of the powers of government. I do not think that the attempt will succeed, because the electors, when they were appealed to, gave the Government no mandate to do what they are now seeking to do. The people were asked what was their opinion upon this subject, and, as the aggregate vote shows, they gave Ministers no mandate to bring forward this leaflet for the purpose of crushing unionism.
I rose particularly to point out the unfair position in which unionists will be placed if, unfortunately, this Bill ever finds a place upon our statutebook. Before it gets there, however, I venture to say there are a few hurdles which the Government will require to get over. The biggest of these is that of getting the Bill through this Chamber. We are not going to allow it to pass without taking the sting out of it, without proving that we are still true to our professed principles of three years ago, and that we are firm believers in that fair administration to which effect was given by the Fisher Government. We are here to defend that administration, and we have more of a mandate from the people to defend it than Ministerial supporters have to oppose it. The action of the Government in endeavouring to withhold a preference to unionists in the case of men in the Commonwealth employ places their responsible mouthpiece in a very awkward position. As it stands today, the Arbitration Act clothes the President of the Arbitration Court with power to grant preference to unionists where he deems it right to do so. He is authorized to hear cases presented to him either by the employes or employers, and to award preference to unionists if he chooses to do so. As a matter of fact, he has granted it. But this Bill is intended to intimate to the Minister representing the Government and dealing with employes - the Minister who is supposed to hold the scales evenly as between the taxpayers on the one hand and the employes on the other - that he must not give preference to unionists. To begin with, therefore, it is an awfully ill-balanced piece of legislation. It seeks to rob the Minister who represents the taxpayers and who occupies an equally judicial posi-tion with that of the President of the Arbitration Court, of the power which this Parliament has vested in the President of that Court.
– Apparently, he cannot trust himself to exercise that power.
– I quite believe that. It seems, therefore, that we are entitled to claim quite as much power for a Minister representing the Government as is vested in the President of the Arbitration Court. The Minister for the time being; is an employer of labour. He stands between those who are paying the wages and those whom he employs. But this Bill declares that, although he has power to fix the conditions under which men shall be employed, he shall not exercise the same power as Parliament has vested in the President of the Arbitration Court. Where is the equity of such a proposal? If a Minister can increase or decrease the rate of wages, if he can determine that men shall work longer or shorter hours, why should we deny him similar powers to those with which we have already clothed the President of the Arbitration Court? I can only insist that any such action is unfair and unwarranted, and does not represent the wish of the electors. T shall support the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Findley, in the belief that it will place this small remnant of a Bill in a better form than it is at present.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania) [3.8. - As a proposed legislative enactment this Bill has been truly described as a hollow sham. It proposes to do only what Ministers have already done by Executive act. The late Government openly declared themselves in favour of preference to unionists in the Public Service, other things being equal. The present Ministry have taken a step in the reverse direction. They have undone in a clear and understandable way what the last Government did. “ But they have been less straightforward than their predecessors in. dealing with this question of preference to unionists. By an amendment of the Arbitration Act the Fisher Government vested in the President of the Arbitration Court the power to grant preference to unionists at his discretion. Prior to that the Court had power to grant preference only in cases in which the funds of a union were not applied to political purposes. The Fisher Government -three and a half years ago went to the country, declaring themselves in favour of the general principle of preference to unionists, other things being equal. When they got their majority in’ both Houses of this Parliament they gave effect to their policy, which had been indorsed by the people. In other words, they did what they. had pledged themselves to do. They removed from our Arbitration Act the restriction to which I have already referred, which permitted the President of the Arbitration Court to grant a preference to unionists only in cases where the funds of a union were not applied to political purposes. That was a straightforward way of dealing with the matter. Let us contrast it with the miserable action on the part of the present Government. They went before the electors, declaring that their policy was to sweep away preference to unionists root and branch. Upon the hustings they and their supporters affirmed that no Arbitration Court ought to have a shred of power to grant preference to unionists under any conditions. They affirmed that there were thousands of honest workmen from one end of Australia to the other who were suffering because the Labour Government had empowered the President of the Arbitration Court to grant preference to unionists at his discretion. But immediately they got into office they ran away from their declared policy. In support of my statement, I have only to read the second paragraph of the Governor-General’s Speech on the 12th August of the present year. Tt says -
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.
That is a fair, straightforward declaration, and one which we can understand. But let us look at the remainder of that paragraph. It reads - lt 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 an 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.
Up to a certain point the Government went straight ahead. But, having reached that point, they turned round, and ran away from the policy which they had declared to the people. Where is the Bill which, in their- statement of policy, they promised to bring forward for the purpose of depriving the President of the Arbitration Court of the power to grant a preference to unionists? Instead of that measure, we have submitted to us this miserable little leaflet and apology for a Bill. My honorable friends opposite, when they went before the electors, played on the prejudices of the farmer. The Honorary Minister has stated that in Tasmania the question of granting a preference to unionists in the case of men in Commonwealth employ was one of the live questions at the recent election. I know that it was one of the live questions then. It was elevated to a prominence which it did not deserve through the deliberate lies told to the electors by the agents and canvassers, and also by some of the candidates representing the party on the other side. We were able to follow on the. track of some of them, and found that the agents and canvassers of the party opposite went from farm to farm inviting the farmers to believe such wildly absurd nonsense as that, if the Labour party were returned- to power and were able to continue the principle of preference to unionists, they would be compelled to discharge their own sons to make way for members of the Rural Workers Union at the behest of the first union organizer who came along. Senator Clemons is right when he says that this matter was prominently before the people, but I repeat that it gained that prominence only because of the absolute misrepresentations of the agents and canvassers of his own party. These people knew well that there was not a tittle of truth in the statements they made. I met farmers in the course of the electoral campaign., who, because they believed that public men would not misrepresent those of another party, said to me almost in fear and trembling, “ If your party are returned to power and preference to unionists is continued, an organizer of the Rural Workers Union will come along very shortly and ask us whether our sons are members of the union; and if they are not, we shall be compelled to discharge them in order to make way for members of the union whom the organizer will send along to take their place.” That is only a sample of the stuff that was served out to the farmers by agents of the party opposite in Tasmania, and I suppose in other States as well.
– The sons of farmers are specially excluded.
– The agents of honorable senators opposite were careful not to tell the farmers that. Whenever a representative of a party on this side met the farmers and put the’ true position before them, their feeling on the subject was soon changed. I met a little group of thirty or forty farmers at one meeting, and when I had invited questions one of them asked me, “ Are you in favour of preference to unionists?” I said, “ Yes, under certain conditions I am.” The farmer said that this was an important question with farmers, and they felt that if the principle was applied it would injure them. I said in reply, “ Suppose that there are fifty farmers settled in a particular district, and that forty of them spend a good deal of hard cash and a great deal of time in organizing, and by their organization secure for themselves cheaper freights and better railway services, will they not at the same time secure the same advantage for the other ten who refused to join the organization and to spend any time or money upon it?” They said that they supposed they would. I then said, “ If there be any question of preference or priority in the supply of railway trucks to transport the produce of the district, do you not think that the men who spent their time and money to secure the advantages which were secured for all the farmers of the district should be given preference to the men who stood aside from the organization, and would do nothing to secure the advantages which they enjoyed in common with those who had worked for them?” They said, “ Of course we do,” and I then told them that they believed in preference to unionists. I am satisfied that the farmers and others in Australia will believe in preference to unionists when it is put to them fairly, and it certainly was not put to them fairly by the canvassers of the
Liberal party. With respect to the number of people who will be affected by this Bill it has been freely stated that it will not affect more than one in ten of the workers of Australia. What a magnificent result that is for four or five months* hard work by the Fusion Ministry, and after their heroic declaration of their intention to wipe out preference to unionists root and branch.
– It will not affect as many as the honorable senator suggests.
– I am making a. conservative estimate, and assuming that, it may affect directly and indirectly one out of ten of the unionists of Australia. The Bill provides that -
No preference or discrimination shall be made for or against any person in relation to any employment by the Commonwealth, or by any Department or authority thereof, on account of his. membership or non-membership of any political or industrial association.
There are from 29,000 to 30,000 public* servants in the employ of the Commonwealth, all told. Owing to the nature of their occupation, it is impossible for a* great many of them to be brought under the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but, assuming that it were possible to apply it to all, weshould have 30,000 Federal servants, brought under the operation of the Act as against about 300,000 unionists in Australia. This Government promised to restore freedom to live and equality amongst workmen, but they are passing; by 270,000 of the workers of Australia, who belong to unions, and propose to give- this alleged advantage to. only 30,000. Could there be a more hollow sham that* this Bill? I want to know why the Government should inflict an injustice o» the workers of Australia. Why should they declare that the 30,000 Federal servants shall be set socially apart from theother industrialists of the country ? Arethey to be considered social pariahs and social lepers? Why should they be put in a class by themselves because they happen to work for the Australian people asa whole? Are they to be declared as of a different order of being from persons employed outside the Federal Departments?” I should like to hear some reason for the distinction proposed to be made. I hope that the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Findley will be carried, becauseif it is, it will bring this Bill absolutely into line with our existing legislation under which the President of the Arbitration Court can grant preference to unionists almost at his discretion. The amendment would do for the men engaged in the Federal Public Service what has already been done for the workers outside. Why should they not be put in the same position? If they are not honestly earning their living in the service, they should be made to get out to make room for those who will ; but we can assume that they are earning the wages paid them, and, as citizens of Australia, they should have the same right of access to our Courts of Justice, and the same treatment from those Courts, as is enjoyed by those who are outside the service. We should not declare by an Act of Parliament that any Court in Australia may say to 270,000 workers outside the Public Service, “ We may decide upon certain hours, wages, and conditions of labour for you, because you are employed by private employers,” and at the same time say to those employed in the Federal Public Service, “You are banned; you are not entitled to what ma-“ be claimed by other workers, because you are employed by the Commonwealth Government.” Ministers are always mouthing loudly about the freedom and rights of the people of Australia, and if they do not desire to be hoist on the topmost pinnacle of inconsistency, they will accept Senator Findley’s amendment, or, in the alternative, introduce a Bill to give effect to their promise to sweep away the principle of preference to unionists root and branch. No middle course is open to them if they wish to stand before the people of Australia as consistent men. I wonder why the Government have refrained from following up the policy which they outlined in the statement put before this Parliament? If they had done so, we could have gone before the electors on a well-denned issue which the people would understand. I wonder whether it was a consideration of the numerical strength of industrial unionists as compared with the number of nonunionists that has made them hesitate to give effect to the bold policy enunciated in the ‘ second paragraph of the Ministerial statement. The men of Australia to-day are not what they were when I was a boy. I was once employed by a mining company, whose manager ordered the men to work on Christmas day, under threat of the sack if they did not. They were afraid to stand out, because they had a very small and poor union at the back of them. I am speaking of a period over thirty years ago, when the men of Australia did not feel their strength as they do to-day. They were not banded together, and did not know what unionism really meant. But now our men are fully conscious of the strength of their unions. They are only asking for a fair deal, and they mean to get it. They know the difference between true unionism and bogus unionism. It will be a sorry day for Australia if ever the time comes when unionism in its true sense is banded together to resist non-unionism or “ Packerism.” We are sometimes told that this Government and its party stand for freedom. What kind of freedom could the people of Australia expect from them? Is the action of the Government elsewhere a sample of the freedom which .they would give to the workers if they secured more power? When they brought forward this measure, they would not allow half-a-dozen words of criticism to be spoken upon it. Is that the kind of freedom which the workers may expect from them ? Is the action of the pitch-fork farmer reported in the newspapers the other day a sample of the freedom which the rural worker may expect at the hands of those farmers who have been led astray by the agents of the party opposite? We all read of how, when an inoffensive man simply went on to a farm in New South Wales to have a few words of conversation regarding industrial matters with the employes, he was driven off with a pitchfork by the farmer. I myself have had experience of squatters who absolutely refused to allow me to go to the huts of the men after their working hours to discuss with them questions affecting their industrial interests. Those who refused me that freedom are the men who, combined together, were successful in sending Senator Clemons to the Senate; because they are members of the Employers Federation of Tasmania, who are always talking about doing away with unionism, but who at the same time belong to a close union themselves. We are entitled to judge of the merits of an Act of Parliament by what has occurred under it. We have had about nine years’ experience in the Commonwealth of the Act empowering the President of the Arbitration Court to grant preference. In the beginning he was empowered to grant it only under certain conditions. He could grant it if he was convinced that a trade organization was not spending its funds in political movements. Some three years ago, that- restriction was swept away. Since then, there has been unrestricted power for the Court to grant such preference as it may think fit. But there has been only one case in which preference has been declared by the Court.
– Why was it granted in that instance?
– Because the Judge openly stated that it seemed’ to him that if he did not declare that there, should be preference to unionists in that particular case, preference would be granted to non-unionists. That, indeed, was an absolute certainty. It is useless to try to throw dust in the eyes of the people. The measure now before us is not only intended to sweep away preference in the Federal service, but it is a direct blow at unionism. It is meant to aid non-unionism. I venture to predict that if the Government were successful we should have chaos and disaster, political and social, in Australia. If you take away the power of the Court to grant preference, you will destroy unionism, and if you destroy unionism in Australia, you will probably bring about a condition of affairs which one might shudder to contemplate.
– The honorable senator puts preference in front of wages, conditions, and everything else that affects industrial life.
– My line of argument is that the members of a Government who have introduced this Bill have done so, not merely to do what the measure purports to do. The intention is stronger than the wording. The object is to deliver a blow at industrial unionism. Members of the party opposite say in sections that they believe in industrial unionism. The Honorary Minister and Senator McColl have declared themselves in favour of it. Even the “iceberg” of Australian politics has declared that he is not opposed to it under certain conditions. But actions speak louder than words. We have to read this Bill, not as so many words, but as having something behind it. We know very well that it is intended to strike a blow at unionism from which it will take a long time to recover. It is hoped that if unionism becomes weaker the so-called free workers, the Packer section, will become stronger numerically; and when the two sections become nearly equal in numbers we shall probably see in Australia something which none of us would like to contemplate. Because the men of Australia to-day are not down on their knees as they were, perhaps, half a century ago. They recognise that they have rights, and they are going to fight for them to the bitter end.
– Let them fight. You say that if they do not join a union they are not entitled to fight
– If the honorable senator and his little coterie of those who are opposed to true unionism had their way, what would it mean? Does Senator Clemons mean his words to be taken literally, and that the so-called free workers and unionists should be allowed1 to fight their battle out without the intervention of the law?
– I mean that nonunionists should have the same rights a.s unionists have.
– It has been clearly stated in this debate that a leading figure in the Employers Federation has made a declaration that the members of that body will favour the employment of free workers, that is to say, of nonunionists. Senator Clemons must accept responsibility for the utterances of those who are standing behind his Government.
– Will the honorablesenator accept responsibility for th& utterances of the international workers and the syndicalists?
– The syndicalist* have absolutely nothing to do with this party. Perhaps the honorable senator hardly realizes what the term means. The syndicalists do not aim at securing privileges by political action, but by direct means.
– I know what they are.
– The honorable senator wants to fasten- on to the Political Labour party the utterances of the syndicalists.
– I do not.
-The honorable senator asked me whether I would accept responsibility for the utterances of the syndicalists. I say, certainly not.
– Then, allow me to say “No” with regard to the people whom the honorable senator mentioned.
– 1 am very pleased to know that this Government repudiates the utterances of the Employers Federation, speaking through Mr. Blackwood, who is recognised as one of the representatives and mouth-pieces of that association.
– This Government neither repudiates nor acknowledges responsibility for such utterances, any more than the honorable senator does for the utterances of the syndicalists.
– When the free workers, the Packer section - supported, it may be, from behind the fence by the Employers Federation - become numerically strong enough to pit their forces against the true unionists of Australia, it will be a sorry day for this Commonwealth. Those who assist Liberalism in the slightest degree to bring about such a state of affairs will have reason to be sorry for their action. When that day comes, we shall see, not the settlement of such questions by political action and evolution, but by red revolution. If ever that time does come in Australia, and God grant that it may not, I say that those who are pitting the non-unionists against the true unionists will be responsible. It may be that at that time the Cooks, the Irvines, the McColls, the Millens, and the Clemonses will be able to sit in high places, and say, “ Fight it out among yourselves.”
– They will not sit in high places; they will swing from them.
– They will not feel the pinch of the struggle. Sitting as they will in comfort, absolved from the bitterness of the conflict, they will not suffer when the workers are fighting for bread and butter for their families, and for freedom of political action. But they will have cause to look back, and feel sorry that they ever lent a hand in bringing about a revolution of that kind. We have reached a stage in industrial life when the true unionists - the men who point the (finger of scorn at those who will not spend a shilling or lose a moment in assisting to secure advantages, but who, once advantages are reaped, share them with those who have earned them - will have to take a firm stand. When the time comes that the true unionists have to fight the other workers for their rights, not by political action, but by some other method of warfare, the members of the Ministry will be able to look back, not with pride, to the fact that they, perhaps, had a hand in plunging Australia into trouble of that kind. They cry for peace. The cry that is always on the lips of our friends opposite is industrial peace. This very action on their part is calculated, as no other action is, to bring about industrial war. I might just as well have risen this morning and said to my neighbour, with whom I have had a dispute about a vital matter, “ Good morning, neighbour; I am a man of peace,” and proceeded’ to hit him on- the nose right away. I might as well have done that as that the present Government in one breath should sing out for peace, and the next moment bring before the people of Australia a measure of this kind. The intention behind the measure is to give a blow to unionism which it will take many years to recover from. You might as well say to a man, “ We have had our quarrel, but I want to be peaceful with you,” and then spit in his face, as pass this measure. . Because the Government, while they are declaring to the workers that they want industrial peace, the next moment are spitting in the faces of the unionists by bringing forward a measure of this kind. It goes either too far, or not far enough. It is a miserable apology for a measure, but, such as it is, it has to be dealt with. I shall conclude my remarks in the words with which I began. If the Government wish to be thought consistent by the people of Australia, they will take one of two courses. Either they will withdraw the Bill and bring before the Parliament a measure, and, if necessary, “ gag “ it through another place, as they “ gagged “ through the present measure, a Bill which will not only penalize some 30,000 workers inside the Federal Service, but also penalize from 200,000 to 300,000 workers outside. That would be a courageous act on their part, and one which we could understand. If, however, the Government are not prepared to take that course, then they must accept the amendment- foreshadowed by Senator Findley, which only seeks to put Federal servants in exactly the same ‘ position before the Federal Arbitration Court as several hundreds of thousands of unionists outside. I hope that the amendment will be carried; but, whether it is carried or not, I am satisfied that, so soon as the men and women of Australia are educated up to what the grant of preference to unionists really means, they will recognise that it is only asking for justice to unionists. One need not waste time in discussing whether preference to unionists means industrial peace or not. It has been shown over and over again by indisputable evidence that if we are to have industrial peace we must have organized employers and organized labour, and empower the Court which has to try industrial questions to give preference to unionists, if . not without restrictions, at least under certain conditions. That must be done if we want to work in the direction of industrial peace. Just so soon as the electors, who, perhaps, are not directly interested, but who stand between two opposing parties, and everyone of whom is indirectly interested in this great question, sit down and think hard, just so soon will they understand that the great cry of preference to unionists is not what it has been made to appear from the lips of our opponents in the Federal arena, but is only a matter of giving justice to unionists as against non-unionists in industrial life. Just so soon as the electors ‘think hard, and get to understand the question, just so soon will they give a mandate to the Government to grant preference to unionists under certain conditions, and when we have got out of the present turmoil, we shall have a better chance of securing industrial peace when all industrial questions can be threshed out before an industrial tribunal, which will be clothed with power to grant; without restriction, it may be, or perhaps under certain conditions, preference to any section of workers appealing to that body, other things being equal. I have always believed that other thingsbeing equal should be one of those conditions.
– What has your own Court said!
– What has it said ?
– The Court has said, “ Under no circumstances, shall I give preference except for that one reason.” Mr. Justice Higgins has been asked, I suppose, a dozen times to give preference, but he has refused to do so. That is the answer.
– If that is so, the Government can have no hesitation in accepting our amendment.
– The Government say the same thing - “ We will not give preference.”
– Because if that is so, the amendment will not do any harm.
– If that is so, the Bill will do no harm.
– There are two sections of political thought facing each other. If one section says, “ This measure cannot do any good, but it will do no harm,” and if the other section represented by this side say, “ We believe that it will do good,” what is to prevent our honorable friends from accepting the amendment of Senator Findley? But I do notagree with what Senator Clemons has said.
– You agree as to the fact.
– I agree that the President of the Arbitration Court has made that statement, but it must never be forgotten that he has made one exception, and in that exception he showed the absolute necessity, in the interests of justice to industrial workers, for having the power to grant preference to unionists. In the case of the Brisbane tramway strike, he said, “ I am going to give preference,” because he felt that if he did not take that step, the non-unionists would get the preference.
– They have got it now.
– I hope that the time will come when a Government will be in power who will make that provision effective, and that a time will come when we shall be able to strengthen it. The fact that Mr. Justice Higgins felt compelled to give preference to unionists in one case because of his fear that otherwise the nonunionists would be given preference-
– He did not put it in that way.
– Because of his fear that the unionists would be penalized. That very fact shows the absolute necessity for such a provision as we have in the Arbitration Act, Furthermore, it shows the necessity of strengthening -that provision as soon as we possibly can. We should extend the principle, not only to workers outside theFederal Service, but also, as proposed by Senator Findley, to workers within that Service. I shall vote for the second reading of the Bill only because I believe that amendment will be carried.
– I do not think that this measure is of sufficient importance to demand anything like a heated discussion. It is a good deal like a chip in porridge, doing neither good nor harm.
– Well, let it go.
– That is so far as any intrinsic qualities of the measure are concerned, but there is a principle behind it. There is the principle of the Government striking the only blow they are game to strike against trade unionism. I do not particularly value the provision for preference to unionists, because I reckon that any union worth its salt will make sure that it will get preference.
– The big unions do get it now.
– Yes, and if there had been no law favorable to it the big unions would have helped the little ones till they would have been able to do it too. I believe from the bottom of my heart that the present Government are bitterly opposed to trade unionism. I feel quite certain that, however fair their words may be, whenever a union gets a set-back it is a source of secret joy to them, just as I freely admit that whenever a union has a bit of luck I am very glad, even if I did not favour the objects for which the unionists went out or the methods which they adopted. I am glad for them to win in any circumstances. I always rejoice when I see a Labour union score a victory of any kind. I know that the real dividing line between the two parties here is that the other party are secretly glad when strike breakers flourish. Some allusion has been made to the so-called Independent Workers Union. I am not going to waste good words on evil things. Undoubtedly that body should be called the professional strike-breakers’ union. It is composed of men who, unhappily under modern conditions, are so dead to all feelings of true loyalty to the class to which they belong that they are willing to sell their own and other people’s birthrights for the miserable mess of pottage offered to them by the Employers Federation. We know that, no matter what promises are made as to the way in which strike-beakers will be treated, and as to receiving permanent jobs and better conditions, the combined intelligence of the employers, as a body, has never yet made them able even to keep a bargain which would be so obviously selfish.
– Mitchell did that with the strike-breakers at the cement works recently.
– That is one way in which their ingratitude and their bad qualities help in time to school up the workers to understand how little they can expect from the employers, and consequently assists indirectly to build up unionism, so that out of evil cometh good in these matters. The amendment of Senator Findley may be all very well in its way, but I am strongly in favour of knocking out the Bill completely. I think that we should reject a measure of this kind because of the reason why it is sent to us. It is a studied attempt to simply raise a question, and to raise it in a miserable, pettifogging way. We all admit that the question of preference to unionists, as embodied in a general law applicable to outside unionists, has been raised. If the Government had attempted to make an attack on that principle they would have caused such a fight as has never taken place in Australia politically, and they would have been wiped out of political existence at the next election’, although probably a few delighted country people would have supported their candidates. In regard to the proposed attempt to wipe out preference to unionists, we know that the Government pledged themselves to bring down, and did include in the Governor-General’s Speech, a proposal to exempt the rural workers. That, of itself, shows a desire on the part of the Government to depart from their professions of” love of equality and of equal opportunity. It evidences their intention to make a direct attack upon the principles of unionism. I am one of those who, when an attack is made, believes in promptly resenting it. I say that this Bill is harmless, because it will affect only a few persons, but its intention being an evil one, we should avail ourselves of the first opportunity of showing our contempt for it, and for any threats of what will happen if we decline to accept it.
– The honorable senator has not heard any threats made here.
– I am aware that, with that desire for peace which is natural in the case of a small minority, no threats have been made here. But the Prime Minister, as the mouthpiece of the Government, has said over and over again that this Bill and the Postal Voting Restoration Bill are the two policy measures upon which the Ministry propose to put up such a fight as will force this Senate to the country by means of a double dissolution. If I may be permitted to discuss the question of a double dissolution-
– Do not; it is a painful subject.
– Not at all.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - In any case, the honorable senator has to stand for re-election in about two years.
– I am quite aware o”f that. All life is a gamble, and when the odds are in. our favour we are prepared to accept them. * There is nothing to make me fear a double dissolution. At the most, I have only two years to run, and the probability is that if a double dissolution took place to-morrow three members of our party in each State would be returned to the Senate for a period of six years, so that, on an average, each would be about two or three years to the good. But the interests of the country ought surely to be superior to all personal interests. My contention is that that section of our Constitution which relates to a double dissolution is applicable only to cases in which the expressed will of the people is being thwarted by a Senate, half of whose members have been elected three years or more previously. It is easy to understand that, in such circumstances, a great wave of public opinion might sweep over the Commonwealth, and that, unless some means were devised for solving such a deadlock, serious results might follow. It seems to me that we ought to discuss the probability of a double dissolution from the point of view of its effect upon the Senate. Now, if there is one thing clearer than another, it is that this Chamber is an essential part of the Federal Constitution. The idea of the framers of that Constitution was that it should exist for the protection of the smaller States against the possible domination of the more populous ones. Whatever may be the opinions of honorable senators - tinged as they may be by geographical considerations - it is beyond cavil that one section of our Constitution provides-
– What has all this to do with the Bill ?
– If there is one section of our Constitution which will be more difficult to amend than another it is that which provides that the constitution ‘of the Senate in regard to its membership shall not be altered without the consent of every State. That shows that this Chamber is an integral part of our Constitution, and that it is practically impossible to interfere with its constitution. If the rejection of a Bill of this kind was of sufficient importance to compel the Governor-General to grant a double dissolution, it would mean the absolute stultification of the Senate, which, as a parliamentary institution, might just as well be wiped out, because it would never be able to thwart the other House in the slightest degree without incurring the risk of a double dissolution.
– I am looking in the Bill to discover anything in it connected with the two Houses of this Parliament.
– The Bill is so small that the Honorary Minister would want a microscope to discover anything in it.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Then the honorable senator should vote against it. Let us get to a division.
– The honorable senator . has been attending in his place in this Chamber so closely-
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. –The honorable senator himself has been doing a little bit of running about.
– And with a little more success than has been achieved by the honorable senator.
– Order ! That matter is not before the Chair.
– I would not like to say anything about the great Liberal victory which was expected in New South Wales, and which did not materialize. Nor would I like to comment on the doleful silence which seems to pervade the ranks of the Liberal party, both here and elsewhere, since their stock has slumped so badly. While I do not wish to make any remarks outside the scope of this gigantic Bill, I would remind honorable senators that organization has resulted in the winning of a preference to unionists. Why is it that bodies like the wharf labourers, the coal lumpers, and the seamen have preference voluntarily conceded by their employers in many cases?
– Because the employers th is get the best men.
– Not only that, but it also brings about industrial peace. There is no doubt that many employers have discharged non-unionists because they recognised that there would be nothing but friction while they were employed on the same work with unionists Many employers grant a preference to unionists to prevent that friction which would otherwise perpetually exist between their employes. The reason why the employes themselves desire a preference is not because they wish to have a preferential right to the conditions which they have won. Unionists have been exceedingly generous in extending a helping hand to those who are not members of industrial unions. They have always recognised that it is an economic fact that, whenever the standard of labour is raised in any particular calling, a general benefit results. It is not because unionists object to share the benefits which - they have gained with those who are unwilling to fight that they ask that a preference shall be extended to them. Their main reason is that, in a fight, they know that there are only two alternatives presented - preference to unionists and preference to non-unionists. In effect, that is the way in which the position always works out. Some people talk of a class war. This is not a question of people agitating for a class war. That class war already exists. It is true that it assumes different phases, but it .exists, and will continue to exist, until present conditions have been altered. In this class war there is a considerable section of employers in every industry who would like to see the power of unionism broken. While many employers are not hostile to unionism, the majority of employers welcome anything which will tend to crush or humiliate unionism. That being so, it becomes necessary for unionism to arm itself with every weapon that it can in order to maintain and increase its strength. In the fight between those who wish to destroy and those who wish to uphold unionism the granting of a preference is an essential. Suppose that, as an employer of labour, T employ a dozen men, and that I am under no obligation to engage unionists. If I can obtain non-unionists who are able to do the work in a competent manner I will employ them, knowing that the more non-unionists I engage the more unionists will be out of work. In other words, the more unionists there will be existing on the funds -of the union, and, consequently, that union will be more likely to be less aggressive. Thus I would endeavour to keep the unions weak by giving all the employment I could to non-unionists. That is the feeling that is operating among employers today. They say, “ We will keep unionism weak and humble. We will not allow it to gain such a position as will enable it to dictate to us regarding the conditions of employment.” They will not employ unionists when they can get their work done properly by non-unionists. It is to prevent that sort of thing that we are obliged to make a stand iu favour of preference to unionists. 1 well recollect the time when the union of which I have been an active member for twenty-seven years started in this country. At that time we attempted to secure certain conditions in the pastoral industry. The employers refused to meet us in conference. There were no industrial tribunals of any kind in existence then in Australia, or possibly in the world. We had to fight our own battle, and we fought it from shed to shed. We formulated an agreement and a set of rules. We said to the pastoralists, “ You will not meet us to form a common agreement, and therefore we will frame what we believe to be a fair agreement, and our members will work under no other.” We carried that agreement from shed to shed, and every squatter who accepted our members did so under the conditions of “that agreement, and had to pledge himself that he would accept none but our members. We had a provision in the agreement that if a man came along who had not a ticket of membership, he might start work if he signed an agreement that out of his first earnings he would buy a union ticket. If he said, “ No, I object to your union,”” we said, “Very well, we object to you ; things are even, and out you go.” The consequence was that a squatter employed all unionists or no unionists. That condition of things existed for a number of years. On that we built up a union which was eventually able to meet the employers face to face, and frame a joint agreement, which, by the way, the employers broke. I maintain that if the natural predecessors of honorable senators opposite, who have held office in the various States, had really possessed any of the Liberal spirit, which has pertained only to their name, they would have made it legally impossible for such agreements between employer and employe, as were the rule in those days, to exist. Our union succeeded in wiping out of existence separate station agreements, some of which were most iniquitous and barbarous in their terms. After a severe industrial conflict, and when times were bad, we had to back down for a time, swallow the leek, and accept conditions we did not believe in. What did the employers do then ? Backed up by the Employers Federation, the Pastoralists Union framed an agreement, one clause of which read -
In the event of any dispute between the employer and employe, the employer or his representative shall be the sole judge.
– Was not that quite fair ?
– I say that if the people who have claimed to be Liberals in this country had any conception of what fair play and equity mean, an agreement of that kind would have been held to be as absolutely illegal as it would be for me to make an agreement to sell my child into bondage. It would be impossible for any one with a sense of equity to consent that such agreements should be within the law. Yet we have men in the Senate, and in another place, who have assisted to fight those who endeavoured to break down and abolish such unjust conditions. We have heard statements before in this Chamber to the effect that Senator Millen was once in the ranks of Labour. I do mot intend to repeat those stories, true as they are. But, although the honorable senator was once in the ranks of Labour, he was also at one time in the ranks of the strike-breakers.
– Was he a “ white wing “ ?
– No; the honorable senator was not doing any work himself; he knew too much for that.
– Does not the honorable senator think that he might leave these personalities out?
– No, because they are important.
– I think the honorable senator ought to do so; but it is his taste, and not mine, that must decide.
– Of course it is. I refer to the matter as showing the attitude which has been adopted by those who profess to be guided by Liberal principles. I have always been a believer in Liberalism, and it is only because the attitude adopted by those who profess
Liberal principles in this country has been so diametrically opposed to the real spirit of Liberalism, that the name has come into such terrible disrepute. My references in this connexion may be personal, but they are very pertinent to the position taken up by the Government. At one time, when Senator Millen was the editor of a newspaper in Bourke, in the western district of New South Wales, he was a great supporter of the squatters in their fight against the Shearers Union, and on one occasion acted as a special constable, and helped to take a load of “ scabs “ up to a station, or to give them safe conduct through the town. Although he afterwards gravitated a little towards Labour-
– What weapons did the honorable senator carry?
– I do not know that he carried any. At any rate, there was no damage done. I mention this to show that what the honorable senator’s feelings were at the time. A little later, he joined a Labour league; but when he found that there was not much chance of his being selected, because people remembered those little things, he gravitated to his old party again. If I were permitted to refer to honorable members in another place, I might say that there are there the sons and relatives of the squatters who fought us most bitterly a few years ago. They are there giving their support to the party that at present calls itself the Liberal party. We know that their feelings are instinctively againBt Liberalism. Their whole environment and life-long history shows them to be engaged on the side of the employers in this fight. Though they may profess, as they do, to believe in what they call sane unionism, we know that unionism is no good to them if it is effective. They would not mind the name if nothing were done under it. I say that any union that is worthy of the name will win preference for itself. I recollect that when the late Mr. Justice O’Connor refused preference to the Australian Workers Union when they asked for it, I remarked to the Leader of our side at the time, “ I am very glad that he did. He has given us so much in other directions, that I do not want to see our members left without something to fight for.” I suppose that eighteen months had not gone by when a nonunionist in any of our sheds was as rare a sight as snow in harvest time. We soon got preference, and if any honorable senator on the other side wishes to know how we got it, I am prepared to tell him at any time, and to say how we shall always be able to get it. Again, when Mr. Justice Higgins adjudicated on a matter brought before him concerning our organization of about 50,000 members, preference was asked for, and, although the Court denied it to us, it did not put us out, because we knew that we could get it for ourselves.
– The Judge said that you practically had it.
– That was quite true. I do not say this boastfully, but I believe that it is a good thing for unionists to have something to fight for. I am one of those who believe that, by the solidarity of unionism, and the way in which one body of workers will assist another, we shall succeed in time in getting preference for the workers engaged even in occupations in which organization is difficult. I am, therefore, not very rauch concerned as to whether the Legislature grants preference to unionists or not. I believe we are engaged in a fight now which can only end, long as it may be before the end is reached, in the establishment of a Socialistic State, which I, for one, am doing my little bit to work for. I think that unionism is only a method of arriving at the same end. I believe that if unionism were more socialistic in its aims and objects, it would do better the work it should do. For all that, I say it is advisable that we should strengthen unionism by every means in our power. There are forces at work to destroy it, and where they find it impossible to do so, to cripple it, or to impede and retard its growth. We must fight those forces. In the fight for unionism, and benefits for labour, by whatever means they can be achieved, whether political, industrial, or a blend of both, we are up against antagonists. It is a class war, and I am in it for all I am worth, and am prepared to adopt any method which can be successful in the cause which I believe to be a righteous one. I am in it to fight those people who are proposing, even to the small extent provided for in this Bill, to try to prevent preference to a worthy class of the community. If this can be done by the adoption of the methods proposed by Senator Findley, that may be better than nothing, but for my part I am dead against this Bill, and would not like to give the Government the satisfaction of saying that even the second reading was carried. I think that we should wipe it out absolutely. I do not anticipate any danger from the threatened double dissolution. If it were to take place, it would not trouble me. What does it matter when each man has only his own battle to fight, and I am prepared to fight mine at any time. I say that we should not hesitate because of any fear of the consequences to wipe such proposed legislation as is contained in this Bill out of existence. I dc not believe in mystifying the people.
– Governments in the employment of labour should not be above the law, and that is where they are trying to put themselves by this Bill.
– I agree with the honorable senator. It appears to me that if we vote for the second reading of this Bill we shall commit ourselves to a principle in which we do not believe, and which we are dead against. The same objection did not apply to the measure which we considered last night. We were then dealing with a question of method, but in this Bill we are dealing with a matter of principle. This is a measure in connexion with which no methods matter at all. The question involved is one of principle. We have on the other side honorable senators voicing the views, hopes, and aspirations of the Employers Federation, financial institutions, and all the forces that are against Labour. They are attempting to triumph over Labour, which in another place they have temporarily in their power. Here they have no such power, and I say that we should accept the gauntlet that has been thrown to us, and reject this Bill with the utmost unanimity.
.- I shall occupy only about ten minutes in dealing with this Bill. I recognise that it is one of the kites which the Government are flying, and that they have had to submit it, because. at the last election they made quite a lot of capital out of their objections to preference to unionists, their support .of postal voting, and one or two other things. They could not justify themselves to the electors if they did not bring forward these measures. I do not think that any of them believe in th:Se measures, or consider that they have any hope of carrying this kind of legislation. But they have traded on the political ignorance of quite a number of electors in Victoria and other parts of Australia who- are not industrialists carrying on the occupations of artisans. The party now occupying the Government benches depend for most of their support on the people who live in remote districts, and who, because of the legislation carried by the Ministerial party, have to work harder than they should work, and have very little time for reading, whilst they lack the advantage of the interchange of ideas which is enjoyed by the people engaged in industries carried on in bur large centres of population. The party now in power are always turned down whenever people meet together and discuss political issues. When people have opportunities of judging of the capacity and integrity of that party they receive short shrift. Their only chance of securing office is by deceiving farmers and other people in the country. They talk about the postal vote and preference to unionists; but if they were honest they would declare their intentions plainly. What they want is to abolish preference to unionists absolutely. If it is fair that preference should not be given to Government employes, it ought not to be given to any class whatever. In this respect, the Government are on exactly the same plane as private people. The people of Australia have said that it is a fair thing that preference should be granted, provided the Judge oi the Arbitration Court sees fit to make an order to that effect. The Government of the Commonwealth ought not to be placed in a different position from any other employer of labour. Men following quite a number of occupations may. be employed by the Government. Those employes may be desirous of following along the same lines as workers outside. The workers many years ago realized the advantage of unionism. They saw that it was possible to get from private employers, by means of amalgamation and unionism, better terms than they could secure individually. I remember the time when the emissaries of Liberalism, through their daily newspapers, gave a great deal of advice to the unionists of Australia. They told them not to take direct action to advance their cause, but to try to secure what they wanted through the Legislature. Workers were beginning to realize that they were not getting a square deal. They were not being paid so much for their labour as they were entitled to get. Individually they were powerless to alter that condition of things. When they went to an employer and asked for better terms, he, if he were a decent fellow, would listen to what they said, and reply, “I cannot afford to pay you more.” The men knew that they had no hope of altering their condition by individual effort. A man might determine to leave his job, but he would get no satisfaction out of that, because some other workman would come along and take his position. There was no remedy except through unionism. Men saw th.it if they could convince their fellow workmen and bring them into line, they could by acting together secure better terms for themselves. The result was the bringing about of the great labour troubles of 1890. We were then advised that it was not a good thing for the unions to act directly, as they were then doing. They were told that they should take constitutional means. Instead of going out on strike, it would be better for them, the newspapers said, to try to secure what they wanted through the Legislature. The men in the ranks of labour listened to this advice. Of course, the other fellows never thought that they would. They thought that they were in a position to mislead the workers as they had done before. But the unionists began to organize along the lines of the advice given to them. At that time there were only about 50,000 men in the unions. I belong to an organization which has a greater membership than the whole of the unions of Australia had then. There are now 430,000 members of unions in Australia. These people have organized because they believe that they can secure advantages along the line of least resistance. They adopted the policy of sending representatives to Parliament to make laws in their interests, just as the employers in the past had had laws made in their interests. Since then the workers have organized industrially and politically, with the result that they have reached a stage when they have. been able to capture the National Parliament. I see no necessity for those members of Parliament who were returned as the result of the organization of working men and women giving this class of legislation any consideration whatever. They should bump it out as quickly as possible. We understand, of course, that it is put forward as a means of sending the Senate to the country. But I do not know that the members of the Labour party in this Chamber need be afraid of facing the people. They have always been ready to do so. They have been prepared to be judged on the merits of the case they have put before the electors : but I should like to be in the Caucus of the Liberal party when the double dissolution question is being discussed just now. I venture to say that Senator McColl is not particularly anxious to meet the people of Victoria. The last election was too close to be comfortable for him, and he has been in Parliament so long that he would be more reluctant to be turned out than I should be. I have not been here very long, and I may add that I have not been greatly impressed with Parliament since I have been here. Certainly I should not be less inclined to meet the electors than Senator McColl would be. It appears to me that one or two plain words .need to be said in regard to this particular matter. Though I do not claim to be an authority on the Constitution, I venture to say that those who have been talking so much in the country about a double dissolution have taken it for granted that they have somebody “in the bag.” Unless they have somebody “in the bag,” they have no earthly hope of getting a double dissolution under the circumstances. I wish to say, further, that I do not believe that they have somebody “ in the bag “ iu that respect. I’ think it is about time, therefore, that the party opposite closed up on that particular subject. There are, I believe, about 30,000 people employed by the Government of Australia. Those employes may be covered by a number of different trade organizations. The legislation passed by this Parliament to enable industrial disputes to be settled by arbitration instead of by strikes affects those employes just as it affects the employes of private firms. That is a very logical and desirable state of affairs. Quite a number of those employes may have spent hours of their off time, and a considerable amount of money, in endeavouring to form unions, and persuade their fellow workers to organize. It is only right that they should have an advantage from what they have done. They are prepared to provide the machinery by which disputes can be settled, in the same manner as disputes of other kinds are settled by a duly appointed Judge. It is right that those concerned in industrial affairs should have a Court to which they can carry their grievances, in the same manner as any other class of the community. Surely, if it is a fair thing for the country to recognise that a Court is necessary to settle disputes between one citizen and another in relation to private employment, it is an equally fair thing that other classes of citizens who are employed by the Government should have the same right. But this Government propose to debar certain citizens from exercising that right. They propose to debar certain citizens from benefits which may be conferred by the Arbitration Court. I say that that is not fair. Many of the members of the party opposite were in Parliament when the Conciliation and Arbitration Court was established. They sanctioned the law which enables a Judge to give preference to unionists wherever he thinks it necessary. But they say that the Government is in a different position to that of a private employer. They are ready to compel an employer who employs 1,000 men to go to the Court, state his case, and submit to a decision given by a Judge who has heard the evidence on both sides. But they say, “ We do not think that it is_ fair to place the Government of the country in the same position.” The limit to which the Judge of the Arbitration Court can go is to say that, in any dispute between the Government and its employes, he can give preference to unionists if he thinks fit. The Government propose to take away that power. I do not think that that is fair. The party to which I belong, if they stand for anything, stand for preference to unionists absolutely. They believe that a workman who is a member of a union is, generally speaking, a better workman than one who is not. They believe, too, that a member of a union is a very much better citizen than a man who is not, and, in my opinion, there is any amount of evidence to back up that opinion. I have lived in this country for quite a long time. I have had a great deal of experience in organizing people into unions. I have often boasted that I could sit where a body of workmen, say a hundred men, would pass me and pick out every individual who would refuse to take a ticket in a union. I am able to do that because the brand is always upon them, and it is very plain indeed. Generally, these men pass one with a hang-dog look ; they are never prepared to meet a man fairly and squarely and look hi-n in ‘the face, as they should do. A man of that class is never a good citizen; he is never of any use to a country. When you want to put forward your arguments as to why he should join a union, to put forward the benefits that other men are getting for him, and to point out that he ought to take a share of the responsibility of that work, you have to chase him in the bush, or elsewhere. He is always a skulker, not only in work, but in regard to obligations and responsibilities, so far as other workmen are concerned. Because of the great work which has been done by the members of unions in this country, the tremendous amount of money and trouble which they have expended, and the great fight which they have put up to make this country a better one, I am glad to say that nearly every man who goes abroad brings back comforting words. I have not yet had that opportunity. I have not earned enough to be able to visit other countries and see what the conditions are like; but, as I have said, nearly every citizen of Australia who goes to other parts and sees the conditions that obtain there, whether he is a Labour man or a man of the other sort, on his return says that this country is the best on earth. I am prepared to accept that opinion which is so generally expressed, because there are certain reasons why it should be correct. This country was first stocked by people who would not put up with the worst conditions obtaining in other parts of the world. Men and women who rebelled against the conditions elsewhere came to Australia, and that is the stock from which Australian industrialists have sprung. It is easy to see that Australia ought to be the best country in the world, because that stock could be depended upon to make it so. But, after all, we have not gone very far with all the great opportunities that we have. One would think that, in a country where every man and every woman over a certain age has a vote, it would be the easiest thing in the world to wipe out the Liberals on the opposite benches. Of course, I think that they should have been wiped out long ago, and, on the merits of the case, they should have been. But they have a very handy little tool called the Capitalist daily press, which acts the same part to them as the skeleton key acts for a burglar in his occupation. It opens the door of this Parliament to them, because it is able to put their side of the question to the country all the time, and it is always there to see that our side of the question is never stated. I remember, a few months ago, seeing every morning in the newspapers of Melbourne at least a column showing where Senator McColl, Mr. Carty Salmon, and Mr. Samuel Mauger were, and what they had said to the people. Those gentlemen were kept continuously before the public. But three other gentlemen - Senator Russell, Mr. McKissock, and myself - were also engaged in the same fight for three months. Our opponents got a column every morning showing the people that they were at least doing something, but the three Labour candidates, so far as the daily newspapers were concerned, might have been considered to be absolutely dead. It is a- marvellous thing that two Labour candidates were returned”.
– How does the honorable senator propose to connect these remarks with the” Bill ?
– I want to show, sir, that the tool used by the Liberals to open the door of Parliament to them is, at this stage, a monopoly in their interest, and the unionists are turning their attention to that little skeleton key monopolized by Conservatives calling themselves Liberals just now, and arc proposing to get one. They are going to devote some of their energy and money to the starting of newspapers that will put their side of this question ‘before the country. .That is where my remarks are connected with the Bill. “ No preference to unionists “ cuts quite a lot of ice with people in the country who have had no direct connexion with Labour organization, and merely regard unionists as a lot of discontented people, who are everlastingly prepared to cut up rough about anything or nothing. As a matter of fact, the farmer who has worked sixteen or eighteen hours . a day all his life would not have had to work for so many hours daily if he had been enlightened enough to throw off his back the element that is trading upon him by bringing forward this measure. Our opponents have a monopoly of the newspapers. We believe it is because of that they have brought forward this measure, and we propose as soon as an opportunity offers to get in touch with the man in the country. The farmer or the producer would be in a very bad state indeed if he had not the great industrial organizations in the city to provide a market for his products. Undoubtedly, one is essential to the existence of the other. The great body of industrialists and artisans in the centres of population who form themselves into unions depend upon the man on the land to provide them with necessary things, and he depends upon them for his market, so that the interests of each are quite identical. That is a fact which I wish to get into the minds of the people, for whom the Ministers are professing to speak. I believe that it is only because they have been in a position to mislead the people through having a monopoly of the press of this country that the farmer’s vote goes the way it does. It is proved up to the hilt that, in the great centres of population, where the people can be got together so that a man can speak to them from a platform, and put the case for Labour to them, and the people outside, on its merits or demerits, Labour always wins. That shows that Labour must have a very much stronger case than the other chap has. If he could get the people in the country to the meetings, where he could put his case to them, he would win there just the same as he does in the great centres of population. The Liberal candidates have to fly kites like preference to unionists, restoration of the postal vote, and that sort of thing, because otherwise what would the farmers say? When the Liberals came along at the next election, they would say to them, “You promised us last time that you would repudiate absolutely preference to unionists, and re-establish the postal voting system,” and so on. They have traded on the farmers’ votes; they have got into the place of power temporarily, ind submit certain measures because they have to take that course. The Liberals are between the devil and the deep sea. They do not want to go .to the country on any consideration, although they say that they do. They do not want to go back to the people in the country and to be twitted with the statement that they have never attempted to carry out any of the promises .they made at the last election. If the country people knew the Liberals as well as we do, they would realize that the Liberals never intended to carry out half of their promises. I do not think there will be a dissolution until the Liberals can be kicked to the country, and I do not believe that they have a hope of taking the Senate with them. It would not be fair if they did. In my view, this measure should get a very short shrift indeed from the Chamber. It is adverse to a principle for which we on this side have fought. It is by the votes of trade unionists in this country that most of us are here. It was because we believed in trade unionism - because we believed that those who did the important work of this country were not getting a fair share of what they produced - that we formed organizations, with the result that eventually our eyes were turned upon the place where a privileged few had been making the laws for a very long time, and there was no question that preference was then given every time. The people can never be told too frequently that, without challenging the principle of preference, the Liberals made no mistakes at all. They gave preference to their own kind of people all the time, and, for that reason, they mostly got crawlers round them - persons who would pull their forelock and bow and scrape. These are the kind of people that the Liberals like to have at their command ali the time. Where can you find a unionist iu the employment of a Government in Australia, unless the appointment was made by a Labour Government? Wherever the Labour party have been in power, they have made a huge mistake in that regard. They have been altogether too fair. They have allowed the other people to carry on the administration of the country, when they knew, or should have known, that those persons were absolutely opposed to them, and for that reason they are suffering now. No Government can expect to live who are surrounded by a crawling section of administrators - -men in high places, who have been everlastingly in a groove, opposed to that which the Labour party were supposed to inaugurate when they got into this Parliament. The Liberals came along with their hypocritical cry about preference to unionists, as if they had never given preference to people of their own kidney. They are doing it now, and will continue to do it bo long as they have the power. We tell them straight that it must not be done; and I would like to tell it to them in language which you, sir, I know, would not permit. It is of no use to be hypocritical about the matter at all. So far as I am concerned, this side will “ bump -out “ the Bill right away. I have no time for it at all. I have no inclination to tinker with it at all; it is adverse to a principle on which the members of this side were sent here; and they ought to give it their biggest boot at the shortest notice.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [6.0]. - Preference to unionists and the restoration of the postal vote were the two great cries of the Liberal party at the last elections, and, having fought them successfully ou the hustings, we are not afraid to fight them on the floor of this chamber, even though it should lead, According to the threat from the other side, to a double dissolution. In regard to both of these Bills, the Government have adopted a vacillating attitude. In their statement of policy which was placed before us at the beginning of the session, I find the following
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.
That was a bold and plain statement, and had Ministers adhered to it, we should have been obliged to confess that they were prepared to challenge us upon a vital issue. But, instead of standing to their guns, they have adopted a vacillating course. They brought forward a Bill in another place which provided, not that there should be no preference to unionists, but that a particular class of unionists should be prevented from having access to the Arbitration Court. They proposed that any union whose funds were devoted to political purposes should be deprived of the right to ask for preference at the hands of that tribunal. They advocated that, as a part of their policy, but they did not ad1hero to it very long. They dropped the full measure, and in its place brought forward the Bill which is now before us and which provides -
No preference or discrimination shall be made for or against any person in relation to any em ployment by the Commonwealth, or by any Department or authority thereof, on account of his membership or non-membership of any political or industrial association.
In some respects that proposal goes farther than did that which was embodied in the first Bill, whilst in other respects it does not go so far. In the first place, it provides that no preference shall be granted to any person in Government employ. The effect of that provision will be to take away from Government employes certain privileges which they already possess. At the present time public servants have the same right as have other workers to appeal to the Arbitration Court in case of an industrial dispute arising. Under this provision, they will be prevented from doing so. Its effect will be that, whilst a portion of a great undertaking like the transAustralian railway may be carried out by contractors whose employes may be granted a preference, on another section of it which is being carried out under Government supervision, that privilege will be denied. There is no fairness in a provision of that character. If the Government believe that there should be no discrimination whatever, they have certainly failed to give effect to that belief. It is a peculiar thing that in the offices of toney journals like the Argus and South Australian Register - journals which are continually denouncing preference to unionists as an invasion of the rights of the individual - the principle of preference is recognised as an essential to employment. The same remark is applicable to almost every newspaper of importance throughout Australia. I venture to say that any printer who desires employment in these offices will require to be a member of the Typographical Association before he has any chance of getting it. In other words, the proprietors of these journals give effect to the very principle which they so scathingly denounce from day to day. The reason why a preference should be granted to unionists is that our arbitration system is based entirely on organization - the organization of employers and employes. Unless we have organized bodies to deal with, effect cannot be given to the principle of arbitration. Unions undertake certain responsibilities in regard to our arbitration laws, and are liable to very severe penalties. In this connexion I may be permitted to mention an instance which occurred only a few weeks ago at Port
Pirie. There two men were haled out of the streets and ordered to go on board a vessel and load wheat. When they refused to carry that wheat for less than a certain rate, they were brought before the Court, and were fined £5 and costs, and these penalties were enforced against their union, which was not consulted in any way whatever. More recently, there has been a case at Port Pirie, in which some members of another union were fined, and their union had to pay the fines. Seeing that these organizations are responsible for the action of their members, they ought certainly to be entitled to some privileges. A preference should be extended to their members on account of the responsibilites which they incur. I would further point out that this question of preference to unionists is not confined to the industrial workers. It is recognised amongst the professions. It has been mentioned here, again and again, till the saying has become so hackneyed that I am almost ashamed to repeat it, that the legal profession is one of the closest unions in the world. Only the other day, when the AttorneyGeneral, whilst acting as the chief law adviser of the Commonwealth, was charged with accepting a retainer from a company which was in litigation with the Commonwealth, did he rely upon any code of commercial morality to rebut the accusation ? No. He merely quoted the rules of his union. In effect, he said, “Our rules and regulations justify my course of action.” That is practically all that he said. Only a few years ago, the members of the Medical Association, some of whom were members of the honorary staff of the Adelaide Hospital, owing to a dispute which arose with the Government over the appointment of a nurse, deserted their posts, and left the sick and infirm to their fate. They went on strike. Not only did they do that, but they instituted a boycott to prevent any other members of their profession taking their places. For several months they maintained their boycott, and when the Government of the day, of which I was a member, engaged medical practitioners from the Old Country to fill their places, they conferred together and resolved to ignore them. They not only prevented the members of the medical profession from attending the sick in that hospital, but by means of the press and of medical men in Great Britain they attempted to prevent men from overseas taking their places. Of course, their action does not justify members of industrial organizations in acting in a similarly arbitrary manner. But, seeing that the press so unsparingly denounces the principle of preference to unionists, it is worth pointing out that on the occasion in question the press upheld the action of the medical men concerned. There is another aspect of this Bill to which I desire briefly to refer. We have been informed that this measure and the Postal Voting Restoration Bill have been introduced as a gage of battle. We have been told by the Attorney-General and others that their rejection or amendment will mark the first step towards a double dissolution. I do not think that the Senate is likely to be bluffed by any such statement. Even if the result of our action in respect of these Bills does mark the first step towards a double dissolution, we need not be alarmed. It certainly strikes me as peculiar that the press and party which are denouncing the Senate for opposing the will of another place in these matters are the same press and party which for years have championed the action of the Upper Houses in the different States - Houses elected on a property and privileged vote - in thwarting the will of the people by rejecting measures which time and again have received the assent of the popular branch of the Legislature. This Chamber is being denounced because, in regard to the Loan Bill and other measures, it has the temerity to differ from a majority in another place, although it is scarcely fair to credit a Government which is weakly hanging on to office with the aid of the Speaker’s casting vote with possessing a majority. This party and the press, who have been upholding the non-representative Upper Houses of the States, are now amongst the first to denounce the temerity of honorable senators in venturing to differ from the conclusions of the small majority that has sent these Bills to this Chamber. It should not he forgotten that the Senate is a co-ordinate branch of the Federal Legislature, is elected on the same franchise, is based on the will of the people in the same way as is the House of Representatives, but is representative of the whole of the people. I think we should have the courage of our opinions, and should vote for the principles we were sent here to uphold. The usual course adopted where there is a difference of opinion between the two Houses of a Legislature has been for the Government, having a majority in the popular House, which has the making and unmaking of Governments, because, having the origination nf money Bills, it controls all legislation, to send the members of the popular Chamber to their constituents for a mandate to bring pressure to bear on the other House. It seems to me that it is the duty of the present Federal Government, before they attempt to coerce, threaten, or influence the Senate to agree to the measures they have sent up here, to appeal to their own constituents, and get a mandate from the country, which may induce the Senate to regard with respect measures which are here now with the approval of only a very small majority. Speaking for honorable senators from my own Slate, and I am amongst those who were most recently elected, I say that if the Government choose to make these measures the gage of battle, we are prepared to meet them at any time. The record of South Australia should give us confidence in making that statement. In that State we have never lost a sent in either Federal House at a general election, but have always increased our majority. The only occasion on which we did lose a seat in the House of Representatives was after the demise of the late honoured and respected member, Mr. Batchelor. We then lost the seat for the electoral division of Boothby, but at the last election we retrieved that disaster by the return of the present representative of Boothby by an overwhelming majority. What I have to say about this Bill is that, so far as it refers to casual workers, it is quite unnecessary, because the Government can, by regulation, prevent any preference to unionists. In so far as it goes further, and proposes to deprive Government employes of a right they at present enjoy under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to appeal to a judicial tribunal for the protection of their interests, this Bill is unfair and iniquitous. An amendment has been suggested, and, in this connexion, I should like to say that my feeling is that we should oppose the Bill altogether, and should accept no compromise in regard to it. I am always responsive to sweet reasonableness, compromise, and the holding out of the olive branch where it is possible to secure peace with honour by compromise, but my present feeling is that this Bill is a direct challenge to the party on this side. It is an attack on the principle of unionism and the principle which we upheld during the recent electoral campaign. In the circumstances, I feel that I should vote against the second reading, and accept the challenge of the Government, whatever the consequences may be.
– The measure we are now discussing is only one more incident in the long struggle that has gone on for centuries between Capital and Labour. It is now being continued as vigorously as ever, and I hope it will continue alive and kicking. The Government have, in this matter I suppose, acted very much at the instigation of the Employers Federation. We know that that combine, that union of unions, has bitterly opposed everything in the shape of working-class organization for any industrial or political purposes. It has done, and is now doing, everything in its power to defeat every attempt on the part of the working people of the country to defend themselves by combination for mutual offence and defence. The position, as I see it, is that the present Government owe their occupation of the Treasury bench largely to the efforts, offices, and money of the Employers Federation, and are bound on that account to carry out, if they can, the behests of those who are responsible for their being. In taking up this position, the Government have declared themselves to be on the side of war, as opposed to peace. They declare in this Bil] that, in Government employment, there shall be no preference to unionists. This is, I believe, only the first shot in the campaign that is coming. The campaign may not be continued upon this line, but if it meets with any measure of success, the probability is that it will be, and the next step taken will be to make an attack on general unionism all round. This small experiment really amounts to nothing, and will affect nobody, because we know perfectly well that the Government will take precious good care that no unionists will be given employment in the Government service while they remain in power. They will be particularly careful, not only not to give preference to unionists, but to give preference to non-unionists. I am as sure as I can be of anything that if a man came along to any member of the present Government with a certificate from a gentleman called Packer, he would have a most excellent chance of getting work in the Public Service. So that we arrive at the conclusion that the Government are prepared to give preference to non-unionists. That may be all very well from the employers’ point of view. The employer is bitterly opposed to combination and organization on the part of his employes, and why ? It is because he knows that if he can take his employes singly, he can defeat them. He can refuse them any increase of remuneration, can compel them to work longer hours, and can thrust unfavorable conditions upon them. But he knows that if the employes have the sense and wisdom to combine, and to face him, not as separate individuals, but as a united body, they become a power in the settlement of the conditions existing between themselves and him. For that reason, the employer has always been opposed to the combination of workmen. They tell us now that they do not object to the ordinary trade union, which takes no cognisance of anything but wages, hours of labour, and matters of that kind. We are invited to believe that it is the political union they are opposed to. This is only a new version of a very old story. I can remember the time when they were opposed to all unions, and to every attempt at combination on the part of their. workmen. I can remember the time when a man who was known to be a unionist was under a ban, when he had to conceal the fact that he belonged to an organization, and had to creep into employment only, as it were, by stealth. I can remember that when it was known that employes were members of a union, they were continued in their employment only on sufferance. Their actions were constantly under observation by their employers, and whenever trade became slack, they were dismissed on the very slightest pretext. That is how men who belong to unions suffered in the -past, and how many of them are suffering to-day. I think we ought to consider whether unionism, as a whole, has been of very material benefit to the working people of Australia. We might even go further, and ask whether it has been beneficial to working people in any of the other countries in the world. If the combination of workmen has had the effect of improving their condition in the various communities in which it has been adopted, it has done good to those communities themselves. Those of us who read history know something of the conditions of the working people of Great Britain 100 years ago. Any one who looks up the industrial history of the early years of the nineteenth century and the closing period of the eighteenth century will be appalled at the statements he will find describing the condition of the workers of Great Britain, and generally of all European countries. Working men and working women also are very much better off now, and that is largely owing to the efforts of the unions. If the acts of the unions have resulted in benefit to their individual members, and also to persons employed in the same industries who are not members of unions, it is evident that those unions have operated to the advantage of the States in which they have existed. You cannot improve the condition of any class in the community without raising the standard of life in the community’ itself, without increasing the efficiency of the community and adding to its power. For that reason I claim that the unions have had a most beneficial influence upon the progress and prosperity of Great Britain and her Colonies. If unionism has proved itself to be such a help to the State as a whole, why should we attempt in the fashion adopted by this measure practically to kill or cripple it? If we cripple combination among workers, we cripple the community. We interfere with the progress of the State. But I am told that unions are antagonistic to capital, and that without capital we cannot live. But I do not hesitate to say that we could live if all the capitalists in Australia and in the world were abolished to-morrow. I wish to distinguish between capitalists and capital.. We cannot carry on without capital, but we could dispense with every capitalist. Not one of them is necessary in the scheme of things. In fact, instead of being necessary, the capitalist is an excrescence. He is a parasite, a devourer of widows’ houses. I do not blame the private capitalist- .
– How does the honorable senator connect these remarks with the Bill ?
– I am arguing that unionism - the combination of workers - is dealt with in this Bill. There is to be no preference to members of unions who are in Government employment. I have been attempting to show that unionism has been beneficial, not only to members of unions, but to the State. If that be the case, I am justified in discussing in some degree the history of combination amongst workmen. Here a fundamental attack is being made upon something which has been historically proved to have been beneficent. If that be the case, surely I am entitled to deal with that aspect of the question in discussing the Bill?
– The honorable senator was discussing capitalism and capitalists; not the historical aspect of this Bill.
– An objection to unionism that is constantly stated is that, if the wages of workmen are too high, capitalism cannot employ them, and that the capitalist, not being able to employ the worker, he must starve. I think I am entitled to attempt to demonstrate the fallacy of that argument. I am entitled to show that the capitalist has no real justification for his existence in the scheme of things. If the capitalist can persuade the workers of the world that he is absolutely necessary to their existence, that they cannot do without him, and that if they are to live he must be kept in his present condition, it is necessary for the contrary position to be demonstrated, and for it to be shown that the capitalist is not at all necessary - that he is a parasitical excrescence. The whole industrial, problem is before us today. We are considering the constant struggle between capital and labour. This is a portion of the problem. It is & skirmish in the great battle between capital and labour. I claim that I am justified in telling the people who sent me here that the capitalist is not at all necessary, and - that they could get on very well without him.
– The capitalist, in this case, is the Government.
– Those who tell the -worker that, if he is living in anything approaching comfort, the capitalist must remain, are merely deceiving him. Now, what is the difference, as far as the worker is concerned, between a private employer and the public employer.?
– The honorable senator wants to abolish the private employer, does he not?
– I do. I want to abolish private capitalism.
– Would he abolish the Government ?
– I want to abolish as many forms of private employment as possible. That is the object of every Socialist.
– We are now concerned with Government employment, not private employment.
– It is provided in this Bill that no preference shall be given to any person in Government employment on account of his membership or nonmembership of any political or industrial organization. Why do we claim preference for unionists? Because we desire that industrial disputes shall be settled in a peaceful fashion. That, in a nutshell, is the whole argument for preference. But you cannot settle industrial disputes by arbitration unless you have an organization of workers on one hand and an organization of capitalists on the other. There must be some organization to bring a case into Court. Individuals might appear before the Court on their own behalf, I suppose, but they could not be held to appear for other people, except through an organization. A union, either of capitalists or employers, can appear before the Arbitration Court. It can provide witnesses to give testimony from both sides. ‘The Judge can then give a fair decision as to what the terms of employment ought to be. If you are going to settle disputes between labour and capital by arbitration, you must have organization. If you have no organization, recourse, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, will be had to the old system of settlement by industrial war. No man in the community, .as far .as I’ have been able to discover, is bold enough to say that that is a system of settlement which ought to be persisted in in the twentieth century. Just as we have abolished the duel, having differences about property or anything -else, and require them to settle their case in a Court of law, so it is extremely desirable that industrial disputes, which are becoming more serious and far-reaching every year, and more disastrous in their consequences, should be settled by arbitration. If you are to have arbitration, you must have organization ; and if you are to have organization you must give people some inducement to organize. Say that you have an organization of workers which succeeds in obtaining from the Arbitration Court better conditions for the people employed in an industry. After the decision has been given, and new rates and conditions are enforced, say that the employer proceeds to bring other men into the employment, and to weed out and dismiss ‘the members of the organization who were the means of procuring the improved conditions. Would that not be a great hardship? Would it not be very hard for those who had fought the battle and won the victory not to be allowed to reap the fruits which they were the means of procuring? Such a state of affairs as that - and it has happened in the past - would do more to bring down unionism and the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes than anything else that could possibly happen. If the employers and the workers want peace, both must unite, and it must be insured that the members of organizations, whether of employers or workers, shall have preference. This matter of preference carries with it the whole question of peace or war. Are we to have strikes, or are we to settle our disputes by arbitration? That is the whole question at the present moment. Abolish preference, and you undoubtedly favour the strike method. Yet, when any section of workers goes on strike, it is abused, not only by members of the Conservative party, but by our business people, and by the press, and every effort is made to turn public opinion against them, and I am sorry to say, in a large number of cases, with more or less success. The Employers Federation have made up their mind that the settlement of industrial disputes by peaceful means does not suit them . Under this system wages have gone up continually; .conditions have very much improved. The employers have taken very good care to pass on, in a large measure, these benefits to the great mass of the consuming public, but there must come an end to this business of passing on. The Employers Federation saw perfectly well that the end is now well in view, and they are attempting, per medium of a complacent Fusion Government,’ to make provision for a day which is coming, as surely as to-morrow will come, when both employers and workers will be up against a blank wall, when they can continue no further with the present system. Wages have gone up unduly; hours have been shortened in many cases; conditions have very largely improved ; but the prime cost of living has gone up, house rents have increased, and almost every commodity which is consumed by the general public has been enhanced in price, so that the great body of the workers find themselves in probably not a very much better position than they were in some years ago. This state of things cannot continue, and the employers, to my mind, see that very shortly they will be face to face with a time when, although wages may be increased by the Arbitration Court, and better conditions may be allowed, they will not be able to pass the cost of these advantages on to the general public. Seeing that looming in the very near future, they have made up their minds to break down combination amongst the workmen, and this measure is the first shot in what I believe is going to be a very serious campaign. If the Ministers honestly desire to see strikes settled peacefully, they will withdraw this measure. We see what has been going on in New Zealand for some time. We see how the employers have stated distinctly that there is nothing to arbitrate about; that they have no quarrel with their workers, whilst at the same time we know that thousands of men are out of employment; that there is a serious quarrel - a quarrel indeed that is so acute that if persisted in it will in all probability end in civil war. Such a state of affairs as that ought not to be possible in free, civilized countries like New Zealand and Australia. We hear about the class war. It is raging in Australia at the present moment. We find that the town is set against the country; we find that the land-owners and the capitalists generally have the workers of Australia at each other’s throats. They have the town worker at the throat of the country worker and vice versâ. That has been the method by which the exploiter in all ages has done his best to extort the uttermost farthing he could get out of the unfortunate people who have to work for- their living. We see in New Zealand, where the employers have refused to meet the workmen who have come out on strike. That is a very bad state of affairs, a very bad frame of mind for any class, whether employers or workers, to be in. So far as the capitalistic system under which we live will allow of such a thing to take place, there is no dispute between employer and workman which cannot, and ought not to, he settled peacefully, decently, and in order. I do not say for a single moment that the worker should give up his claim to the extinction of the private capitalist and the- substitution of public capital. But while the present system of wage slavery and private capitalism is continued he ought to take very good care that there is no waste of energy, or waste of money, or loss to individuals or to the community, owing to the wasteful and wicked system of strikes which has been in operation so much in the past. It may be said that large numbers of our workers have deliberately adopted the policy of the strike. I have been connected with labour organizations for a very considerable time. I have been in one or two strikes, and I found that every strike was preceded by a condition of discontent. An industrial strike is something very like a fever. It begins with a slight increase of temperature. The workers have become discontented; they grumble one to the other; they may appeal to their immediate “ boss,” and if things are made too hot perhaps a few of them are dismissed. The discontent increases, and out’ of it, perhaps, an appeal may be made to the employers for summary redress. The employers refuse, and the condition of fever increases, until at last the blood gets to boiling point. The men throw off all restraint, and say, “ It would be much better for us to go out on strike than to endure this kind of thing any longer.” That is my experience of how strikes are brought about. I am certain, from my experience, that there is always a moment in industrial disputes and industrial discontent, when the voice of reason can be heard. That, I am sure, is also an experience which has happened to most senators who have been connected with industrial organizations and with their troubles and disputes. As I said in the beginning, I believe that this measure is only the first shot in a great campaign against unionism or combination on the part of workers. I wish to say to the workers in Australia, if I may, that they have a power to-day that the workers of no country ever had in the history of the world, so far as we know. They have a power in their hands to use as they will, which, as compared with the power of the union, may be likened to that of the steam-engine as opposed to the bullockdray. Now the bullock-dray was a most useful article in its day. The industrial union was also useful, and can” be beneficial even now. But the steam-engine is much more powerful than was the bullockdray, and the man who can use a steam-engine and a train to bring his goods to market, would not be such a fool as to go back to the antediluvian bullockdray. In the franchise, in our Houses of Parliament, the workers of Australia have a means of improving their condition which transcends a hundredfold anything which unionism of itself, and by itself, could possibly accomplish for them. But an attempt is being made to sap our Parliaments in the interests of the capitalists. I do not know whether I would be in order in referring to the matter, but in Victoria we have a crisis brought about by an attempt on the part of the capitalistic crowd to differentiate between the country voter and the town voter to the extent of almost 100 per cent. Fifty persons in the country are supposed to be equal politically to 100 persons in the city. That is a deliberate attempt to load the dice as against the people in the town. Actions of this kind, if persisted in, can have only one result. I am now travelling perhaps beyond the lines laid down in this measure.
– I am waiting patiently to see how the honorable gentleman proposes to connect these remarks with the Bill.
– The whole thing weaves and works itself into the loom of one great question. It is almost impossible to dissociate one thing from the other. If the people cannot have unions, and if they are deliberately deprived of political power, there is only one recourse left to them. “What they cannot get by fair means, they must take by foul means ; and that has been the history of the world from . the dawn of creation down even to the present day. I do not want anything of that kind to happen in Australia. It is not necessary, it is not desirable; it would be a calamity if anything of the kind did take place. Men had much better die fighting for their liberty than live as slaves. There are times when our modern ideas of peace, quiet, and concord must be thrown to the four winds of Heaven, and that is when our liberties are assailed, and when we are deliberately deprived of a fair voice in the government of the country. With regard to the amendment which is to be moved by Senator Findley, I have given the matter some little consideration, and my present feeling is that I want to vote against the second reading of the Bill. I will not have the measure at any price. I will not have any amendment of it. I want to knock it out completely. It is a deliberate attack on the policy of the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes which has been inaugurated by the Labour party in Australia, and, that being the case, I have no wish to do anything which would seem to stamp the measure with my approval. I therefore intend, unless some very strong reason is given by a future speaker, to vote against the second reading.
– It was my intention earlier in the. sitting not to speak on this measure, because I thought it was so selfcontradictory, and so unjust, and carried with it such condemnation from a logical point of view, that the best thing would be to treat it with silent contempt, and pass it out. But after listening to what other honorable senators have had to say upon it, I am compelled to view it as a piece of insidious legislation, which is intended to accomplish something which the Government dare not attempt to accomplish openly. I venture to say that no Ministry dare come into the open and declare themselves opposed to unionism. If they did so, the people would at once be heard clamouring for their dismissal from office. What is the question that we have to consider ? We know that this Bill is opposed to unionism. When we reflect what unionism has done to improve the lot of the worker, we cannot fail to realize that any Government which attempts to crush its growth is undertaking a very big contract indeed. We cannot lose sight of this position ; that tlie Bill is not simply a challenge to unionism, but a challenge to unionism which seeks to secure its aims by means of legislation. Honorable senators know that the statement has been made repeatedly that this measure represents the gage of battle. It has struck me as peculiar that our friends opposite should have adopted the method of placing before us a negative rather than an affirmative. In this Bill, they seek to limit the privileges and opportunities which are enjoyed by the man who is working for the
Government. They are not bold enough to face the general question, to submit a measure which will make unionism illegal, and which will put every member of a union in gaol, or drag from him a fine. They prefer to adopt the weaker and more pusillanimous course of saying,. “ So long as a man is in our employ, hs> shall not enjoy the advantages which membership of a union would confer upon him.” That is the position which they take up, notwithstanding that history unmistakably teaches us that unionism has been the ladder by which tlie worker has climbed. They affirm, moreover, that the Government employe shall be placed at a disadvantage as compared with the private employe. We all know that, under the new order of things which has arisen, Governments have now to engage in many enterprises which, in times past, they did not touch. They have men working for them who are naturally connected with the unions, and who deserve credit for being connected with them. It is an im-; possibility to form one union which will include all Government workers. The effect of the Bill will be to impose upon a section of unionists representative of different trades, a disadvantage, if they remain in the employ of the Government. What does that mean, if it be carried to its. logical conclusion ? It means that we shall have in the Commonwealth Service men inferior to those who are to be found outside of it. It means that we shall hedge that service round with disadvantages. To me, it is surprising that anymember of the Government can have his. eyes located at the back of his head, and thus be looking backward instead of forward. What are our unions? They are> the product of man. They are the result of an impelling force which has brought home to him the fact that he can accomplish more when he is united than he can. accomplish individually. We all know that ten men engaged upon a work willdo far more collectively than will ten men labouring individually. It seems to me that the Bill is the craziest piece of legislation that could be suggested. It means turning back the wheel of time. It is tantamount to saying that we will adopt methods which were condemned by ourgreatgreatgrandfathers. Step by step in the evolution of labour, man, as a creature of society, has learned the need for unity, and has recognised that unionismis suitable to his environment. Yet we> have the sad spectacle of a Ministry who are so devoid of the spirit of progress, and so incapable of understanding the conditions of the time that they have actually taken a plunge back some 200 years. May I be permitted to remind honorable senators that unionism took its form from the ancient craft guilds. In the old days, an absolute preference was given to the guild man. Yet so weak and vacillating are the Government that- they have brought forward merely a negative proposition, and then, forsooth, are content to get upon the public platform and say, “ Here is one of our test measures.” It is little short of an insult to the intelligence of honorable senators to say that this Bill shall be regarded as a test Bill. I wish now to point out how it attacks the very existence of the Senate itself. We have to look at it, not from the stand-point of an electorate, or a union, but from the stand-point of how it will affect the States as a whole, seeing that it strikes at unionism. The Bill has been thrown down as the gage of battle; but I venture to say that if there be any common sense left in Australia, those who have made it the gage of battle will be told by the electors that they are wholly unfitted to be legislators. What has produced unionism, and do the circumstances which have produced it exist to-day ? Honorable senators know that the first impelling motive towards industrial unionism was the introduction of machinery. Directly man was divorced from the ordinary means of obtaining his livelihood, he felt the nee’d for uniting with his fellows’.” A new environment created a new need. Yet, although the circumstances are the same to-day as they were then, the Government tell us that we are to thrust aside that which has proved of such benefit to the working men. The Bill is practically an attack upon the development of man himself, because, as Shakspeare has remarked, “You take my. life when you do take the means whereby I live.” If we strike at a man’s means of livelihood, we are striking at his development, and affirming that one class of society shall be dependent upon another - in other words, that one class shall be masters and the other serfs. It was not merely the advent of machinery, but its effect, which still further strengthened unionism. The employment of machinery resulted in a large number of unemployed. Consequently, men found that it was necessary to unite for their own protection, and from that time onward unionism has continued to grow. This movement is not confined to Australia, although its progress, perhaps, has been more phenomenal in this southern land than it has been anywhere else. Its influence has been of the most beneficial character, as I am sure that the Honorary Minister, who is looking at me so earnestly, will admit. He will not deny that the shearer of today is a better man than was his predecessor, and that the employer now receives better value for the wages which he pays than he received when the old weapon of the strike took the place of the Arbitration Court. He will not deny that the employer gets better value for his money than he used to do iu times past. He cannot deny, because the facts are against him, that there is more peace to-day than there was in former times. Yet the honorable senator asks us to turn back and adopt the old method. He cries, “ Peace, peace ! “ while he is suggesting the adoption of methods that must produce war. Could there be anything more illogical, more retrograde in its action, or unjust in its application, than is this measure ? It is unjust to the man in the employment of the Government, because it would deprive him of a right which every other citizen has. It is the inherent right of every citizen to unite with his comrades if he chooses to do so, and a Government that steps in to deprive citizens of their inherent rights ceases to possess any claim to be called a Government at all. It is proposing misrule, and not government. It should not be forgotten that an injustice inflicted on an individual is not confined to that person. It passes on. A man suffering under injustice cannot discharge as he Ought to do the duty he owes to those dependent upon him. This measure, by striking at unionists, strikes at the bulk of the population. It strikes, through unionists, at those dependent upon them, and inflicts an injury upon society. It is well known to naturalists that if an insect is injured in its larvae condition, the injury is carried throughout its total life. This applies with equal force to society, which is an organism in much the same way as an insect is. If we inflict an injury upon any man in the community, we injure society as a whole. The injury to the individual is reflected in the society to which he belongs, and that society will see that the persons who have inflicted the injury shall be punished in a most summary way. This Bill is one of the most retrograde measures that perhaps has ever been submitted to such an assembly as the Senate. The repeal of the provisions of an Act of Parliament may be rendered necessary as the result of altered conditions, but the most peculiar feature about the introduction of this Bill is that it has been placed before us without consideration, and without any intimation as to why it is considered necessary. The only argument that Ministers have to advance in support of it is that it is a gage of battle. Honorable senators are gathered here to deliberate for the benefit of the community as a whole. A measure is brought before them without any deliberation in another place, and, merely to redeem a promise made outside, of which they have no right to take any cognisance. This piece of legislation is put before us, and we are told willynilly to pass it, and that if we do not we must go to the country. The country has not demanded this legislation.
– The world is anxiously looking forward to it.
– The world demands, and needs, trade unionism; but our opponents would reverse the true position of affairs. They are seeking to undo the product of many years of growth. It was said on one occasion that it takes a tradesman to build a palace, but any fool can pull down a pig-stye. I do not wish to apply that in any other way than to say that it is very much easier to pull down than it is to build up. The only measures presented by this pseudoGovernment are measures for demolition and destruction, and if they are unable to build up, the sooner they give place to those who can, the better. We do not to-day want men who are able only to pull down. We want men with grit and ability to build up Australia. I am satisfied upon the point, in my own mind, and I believe that if I could read the mind of the Honorary Minister, I should learn that he is as satisfied as I am that there is no need at all for this Bill. If we are honest men, assembled here to advance the interests of Australia as a whole, we must admit that there is no need to tamper with the question of unionists or non-unionists. The subject has been debated very fully, and I repeat that the man who works for the Government should not be deprived of any of the privileges that are enjoyed by his fellow-labourer outside the Government service. There is no answer to that contention from the opposite benches. Why should not a man working for the Government have the right to appeal to the Arbitration Court the same as his fellowworker outside? Why should he suffer any disadvantage? Why should this measure be brought forward to brand a man who is working for the Government? Is a man, because he works for the Government, a weaker man, or possessed of less intelligence than if he worked outside the service? This measure is quite illogical, because a man who is now working outside the service is still a man if he secures employment under the Government. He will not on that account change his nationality or the colour of a single hair on his head. He will not lose his skill as a tradesman, and why, then, should he forfeit his rights as a man? The Honorary Minister cannot answer that question. There is no answer to it. The Government submitted this measure without advancing any argument in support of it, and without showing that there is any demand for it. It is not shown that any abuse has arisen, and, in fact, the whole thing is a concoction. Why do not the Government take a bold stand and say, “ We are against unionism, and intend to put it down, because we believe it to be an evil thing. We are determined that, so far as Australia is concerned, there shall be no such thing as unionism permitted in the country.” They will not adopt that attitude, because they know that it would render their position very precarious. They know that it would create a great deal of enmity outside, and that the result would be that in the end unionism would triumph. This is a retrograde movement which would place the worker under the Government in a position out of harmony with the environment of society as it exists to-day. The Government propose to say to persons in their employment, “ Owing to the development of society, your fellowworkers outside the Government service enjoy privileges and advantages due to unionism, but because you are working for the Government we consider these advantages would be injurious to you, and we, therefore, debar you from the enjoyment of them.” They have not brought forward a single argument to support the position they have taken up. . The Bill, is ill-considered, and the Government, by bringing it forward at this time, show that they wish it to be regarded as a gage of battle. To make a test question of an ill-considered, ill-digested measure, which is out of harmony with the elements of society as constituted to-day, is to insult the electors. If we are to go before the electors, and I do not fear to do so, let us have something to fight about; let us not appear before the electors as a set of simpletons.
– We should put a genuine issue before them.
– Yes; we should put before them a genuine issue and principles for which we could contend in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. I say that it is an insult to the intelligence of the electors to make this illdigested measure a gage of battle between the parties. If the Honorary Minister thinks that he ought to go to the country, I have not the slightest wish to prevent , him going. I should be very glad to meet him before the electors, but I say that we should go before them as men, and not as a set of simpletons, upon a measure which cannot be defended for a single moment. I ask the Honorary Minister to reconsider the position.
– Do you wish the Minister to withdraw the Bill?
– -I do, decidedly. I wish the honorable senator to seriously consider the position, to immediately withdraw this absurd measure, and submit for the purpose of, an. appeal to the country something that is worth fighting about.
Sitting suspended from. 6. SO to 8 “p.m.
– The Senate has on more than one occasion shown how to deal with a situation such as the present one. When a measure is sent up from the other branch of the Legislature purely for the purpose of testing party feeling, and not to get a useful measure placed upon the statute-book, when a challenge is thrown down on a matter of principle, as on the present occasion a challenge is thrown down on the principle of trade unionism as opposed to capitalism, I trust that the Labour party will be ready and willing to take it up. There is no denying the fact that in recent years there have been signs of a great ‘change in reference to trade unionism. The great- majority of the Labour party has, for the last twenty years, or more, been working along certain lines. Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Australian unionism underwent one of the most remarkable phases of evolution iii its history. I am referring to the great change brought about by the maritime strike. Since then, we have been pursuing a certain course. The opponents of trade unionism, having been driven from one point of advantage to another of disadvantage, now wish to force a battle. If a fight has to come, the sooner it comes the better. The clearer the issue is placed before the people, the more certain will the verdict be. No one pretends that there is any necessity for this Bill on other than party grounds. The Government, whose members have long contended that the Senate should hold aloof from party turmoil, and be a purely States House, has now thrust before us a purely party measure. That is one of the surest signs of the hypocrisy that has characterized our opponents when they have talked about the Senate being a States House. The Labour party has never made any pretence about its position. We never set up the plea to the extent that our opponents did that this is a States House. Although our majority has often been greater than that which any other Government ever had, still we never took advantage of our position in the Senate. When Governments have sent up measures we treated them in the usual way, but, strange to say, the very first Government in the history of the Commonwealth that has practically no majority, but merely holds office by the prostitution of the position of the gentleman who presides over the destinies of another place, sends up a Bill which has been carried by the narrowest margin that a Government could possibly carry on with. The motive professed is to force an appeal to the country. The Government themselves have actually been returned with an insignificant number of supporters in comparison with their political opponents, yet they have the political cheek to assume that they represent public opinion, and that their opponents do not. Only a party that has lost all sense of shame would take up such an attitude.
– They are only bluffing.
– Whether they are’ bluffing or not, this Bill is a direct challenge which I hope the Senate will take up, in order that we may let the people know how much sincerity there is behind our opponents. I feel confident that a Government that would dare to take advantage of its position under such circumstances to force a double dissolution on the country over a measure of this kind, deserves no consideration at our hands. If we permit this to happen, the Senate will become a mere thing controlled by another place. Instead of its being a deliberative assembly, chosen to express the views of its constituents, it will be a negligible factor in the Constitution, only permitted to voice its views at the expense of a double dissolution. If the Government be permitted to use that as a weapon, other Governments, having such a precedent before them, may attempt to do likewise.- There have been other occasions lately when the position of the Senate has been flouted and a new constitutional precedent has been made. If this is to be another instance of the kind, the sooner we take the people into our’ confidence, and let them determine the issue, the better for all concerned. Regarding the merits of preference in industrial arbitration, it is a well-known fact that Australian trade unionism was the first movement in the world to adopt the pacific method of settling industrial disputes that are bound to arise as long as anything approximating to the present condition of society continues. This was the first country in the world to establish n Court to put the principle oi preference into practice. It was determined upon iti defiance of our political opponents, or, rather, of the more Conservative element of their party. Only those of a more Liberal frame of mind favoured the scheme. The battle was fought time after time, and the principle of preference was embodied in the statute-book in defiance of Conservative opposition. But recent! we have had a revival of Conservatism in the Australian Parliament. The House of Representatives is at present controlled by the Conservative element, though the party includes men who, in the past, lent their adherence to the principle of preference. Recently, we have witnessed the outraging of the Standing Orders of » deliberative assembly for tlie purpose of bludgeoning through a measure in direct opposition to a principle which was in t11 r past deliberately adopted, and placed upon the statute-book. When we see such drastic action taken, it must be evi- dent that the time is ripe for the people of Australia to settle the matter for themselves. We cannot ignore the fact that a change is coming over the opinions of people in regard to trade unionism. We know that a keen and severe fight is going on as to whether arbitration, or what may be described as syndicalism, shall prevail in the settlement of industrial disputes. That difference is, to a great extent, at the bottom of the present industrial upheaval in New Zealand. In a neighbouring State also, those who believe in arbitration are doing their level best to retain the principle of settling disputes by that means. On the other hand, the Conservative element in the Federal Parliament is doing its best to defeat the principle of arbitration. If that principle is to be defeated, the people of Australia will hav9 to sheet home the blame to the responsible party. Twenty years ago, or more, the Conservative element in the various States of Australia, was taught a severe lesson. If the present movement culminates in a similar fashion, that element will be taught another lesson which evidently it needs. Undoubtedly, the motive underlying this measure is hostility to trade unionism. Conservatives, when trying to humbug the people, have made the declaration that they were in favour of legitimate trade unionism. They said that unionism was a good thing if it were controlled and kept within bounds. But at the same time those very people were doing all in their power to undermine unionism. In recent years, in Australia, they have adopted American tactics to bring about its defeat. Bogus trade unions have been formed consisting largely of strike-breakers, such as the Packer union in Victoria. Similar organizations have been formed in other States. These men have been in the pay of capitalism for the one and only purpose of defeating genuine trade unionism. The present Government, we know, is the mere creature of the Employers Federation, which is undoubtedly finding the funds for the work which I have described to be continued.
– Their balance-sheet shows that.
– Inquiries which have been made undoubtedly show that these bogus unions are engineered and financed by the Employers Federation, or whatever its name may be; whether it be called the “ national ass “ or the Employers Federation, it is really the same organization.
– It is an old organization under a new name.
– It is the same old “ national ass “ with a new skin upon it.
– It is Joseph’s coat just now.
– Yes, it is a coat of many colours. This all goes to show that capitalists can get both politicians and scab union organizers if they pay them sufficient money to work on their behalf. It is all part and parcel of the new movement. Only a very simple individual is humbugged by appearances. If any one examines into the people behind Packer’s union he will find that the same power is behind the throne in the case of the Fusion party. The people who brought about the Fusion established in Australia that union, and it is they who are paying salaries far greater than were ever paid by the genuine trade unions. The most wonderful feature about the scab unions are the big salaries which they can afford to pay to their secretaries, - whilst they, at the same time, have but few members. I can speak with some authority on this subject. Although I have never held the position of a paid secretary, I have been sufficiently connected with trade unionism to know that even the most powerful trade unions in Australia have had to put forth enormous effort year in and year out to collect enough funds to pay their officials, whose salaries are not nearly so large as the insignificant scab unions pay.
– What salaries do the Packer crowd give?
– None of the officials works for less than £6 a week; that, I understand, is the minimum. When the insignificant membership roll is considered, it will be seen that the scab unions are part and parcel of the Employers Federation or the Capitalist party. It is that party who have thrown down the gage to the Senate. They look upon this Chamber as the stronghold of the Labour party. Undoubtedly, so far as numbers go, it is a stronghold. They hope, by a challenge of this kind, to weaken the stronghold. They may weaken it so far as actual numbers go; but I feel quite satisfied that there are sufficient indications to warrant any one in saying that the Senate must remain within the power of the Labour party. Whether that be so or not, the sooner this matter is put before the country as a test case the better. Whilst I recognise the force of the argument that all that is proposed to be done in this - measure could have been done by direct Ministerial act-
– It has been done.
– Yes, it has actually been done, and therefore all pretence is thrown aside. This has been put forward as a party measure. We have been told that no individual inthe community should have an advantage over any other individual in regard to the Government service. That argument has been put forward by honorable senators on the other side who make a pretence of being friendly to trade unionism. They have come forward and said, “Yes, unionism in the old days has brought an industry out of a sweated condition, and introduced more wholesome conditions, whereby sweating has been abolished and something approximating to decent methods introduced.” There is a body of men in Australia engaged in an occupation in which there is more sweating than there is in the case of any other class of workers, and whom it is more difficult to organize. It is a body which, I think, any reflecting person will admit ought to be encouraged as far as possible, and that is the Clerks Union. The clerks in every country, so far as I know, are, perhaps, the most sweated section of the community. They are also the most difficult section of the industrial army to organize. We in Australia have gone some way along the road to organize the clerks. They have undoubtedly gained some advantage from the organization; but the present Government tell this body of men, who were entitled to the relief that trade union principles bring into a calling, and who have organized themselves at very great risk, after much trouble to the trade union movement, that they will get no advantage from being an organized body if engaged by the Commonwealth. While the men in every other industry can go to the Arbitration Court and get advantages, that privilege is to be denied to men in the Public Service.It has invariably been admitted that, as far as possible, the Government should always be a little better than the private employer. In short, the State should be a model employer. It is now proposed, however, to make the State the worst employer. It is provided in the Arbitration Act that the Court may give preference to the members of a union, but if any members of a union are employed by the Commonwealth that right is to be withdrawn, simply because they are employed by the Government. These, I think, are proofs quite sufficient to show the hypocrisy of our Conservative opponents in talking about the advantages of trade unionism. I believe that the people will, when they get the opportunity, assess them at their proper value. It must be admitted, however, that the sooner this question is put to the country the better it will suit honorable senators on this side.
.- My summing up of this Bil! is that it is a mere sham and a pretence. It pretends to do away with preference to unionists, though it does not in itself do very much in that direction. At the last elections, our Liberal opponents went up and down the country denouncing unionism and preference to unionists, and told the public that the Labour Government had done something very heinous in selecting a certain portion of the community for public employment and excluding another portion from that employment. Hence they said they intended to attack not only preference to unionists in detail, but the principle of preference itself. We were assured by our honorable friends that they intended to strike at the Arbitration Act, and to remove the rural workers from its operation. The pernicious principle of preference to unionists, they declared, would be removed, and on that point they were going to stake their political existence. But what do we find? After all their pretensions, and all their statements on the hustings, they have brought in a measure dealing with the abolition of preference as regards casual employes. They know very well that they are not attacking .the principle of preference to unionists as we understand it, and as it is laid down in the Arbitration Act. Therefore the measure is simply a hollow pretence. It is only introduced for the purpose nf enabling our opponents to keep their face with their friends outside. They have no expectation that the Senate will pass a measure of this kind. Whether it will involve this Chamber with the other in adouble dissolution or not, that point will not weigh one atom with honorable senators on this side. They can rest assured that we are not prepared to give way on a principle which we have spent our lives in upholding. I have been in the Labour movement for twenty-five years. In the earlier stages there was a struggle to secure a footing for trade unionism, and thousands of men and women were sacrificed in the fight, and in the maintenance of a principle, years in and years out, which we have succeeded in forcing Parliaments, both Federal and State, te recognise. I remember going over to Tasmania fifteen years ago to hold some meetings on behalf of the first Labour candidate who stood for the State Parliament. Such a thing as unionism was not known there. No principle of preference of any kind was recognised, and the conditions of labour in Tasmania were about the worst that I ever knew of. I endeavoured to secure meetings of men engaged in various occupations, for the purpose of organizing them into unions, and establishing a position that would improve their surroundings. I found that they were intimidated by their employers, although at that time they were receiving the magnificent wages of 4s. 6d. and 4s. a day. I ask Senator Clemons to say conscientiously whether he could be satisfied with that position ? As the result of my visit, a transformation has taken place. The organizations have been able to secure better conditions than previously existed. I made a second visit to Tasmania about eighteen months ago, and found that the carters and drivers, who are now an organized body, were being employed at from 25s. to 27s. 6d. a week of fifty hours. I had the pleasure of urging these men, at a meeting, to organize, with the result that, soon afterwards, an organization was formed, and a demand made upon the employers for a wage of £2 5s. and £2 7s. 6d. per week. During the discussion of the ultimatum, an employer in Hobart declared that lie was paying 27s. 6d. for a week of sixty hours, and also that he was paying the highest rate in the calling at that time. The benefit that accrued to the community from the securing of better conditions for the men is surely something that should be recognised, not only by the community, but by the Government. Senator Clemons, in introducing this Bill, spoke of clean government, as if imposing a prohibition upon preference to unionists, so far as Government employes are concerned, meant clean government. If the principle embodied in our Arbitration Act be a sound one, it is only just that Government employes should be able to appeal to the Arbitration Court for preference to unionists, other things being equal. I recollect the early struggles that we had in Victoria in our attempts to secure a recognition of industrial organizations. Members of the so-called Liberal party opposed that reform for all they were worth. I recollect, some eighteen 3’ears ago, being a member of a deputation which waited on a Minister, who told us that, so far as the Government were concerned, unionism would not be recognised. I ask whether it is not fair that some preference should be accorded to those who have laboured so earnestly through their industrial organizations to secure employes a betterment of their conditions? For their efforts in this direction they have been penalized over and over again. I well remember applying for a billet some years ago, when I was practically engaged to go to Queensland. After the engagement had been completed, I was requested to call again in a fortnight for a ratification of it. When I did so, I was asked whether I was the Mr. Barker of the Trades Hall Council, Melbourne, and whether I was connected with the Clothing Trade’ Wages Board. I replied that I was, and from that time afterwards I was not eligible for the position that I had practically secured. During the period that I acted as Secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall I gained a personal knowledge of dozens of men who have been boycotted because they have been members of Wages Boards or active members of unions. Yet we now have the argument put forward that, other things being equal, these men have no right to a preference in the- matter of employment. We all know that the bogus organization, which is called the Independent Workers Union, was constituted for the purpose of breaking down unionism. Its establishment was due to an attack upon unionism. Soon after, Mr. Packer was engaged by the Employers Federation to create a division in the ranks of labour, and thus to bring into existence the organization which is called the Independent Workers Union. The character of that organization is indicated by the fact that the Tramway Company made a donation to it of £25. Another donation of £50 was made by a firm of solicitors who were anxious that the wellbeing of the members composing the union in question should be considered. From the balance-sheet of that body, I learn that, whereas the amount contributed in fees was only £12 10s., the donations aggregated £275. Now, I have been connected with the Labour movement for more than a quarter of a century, and I have never known an employer to donate to one of our industrial organizations the sum of 5d., let alone £50. Preference to unionists is denounced because, we are told, it is injurious to the community. But in what way has it been injurious? Unionism has been in existence for the past 100 years, and it has grown and thrived throughout the whole of that period. As a result of this movement, our workmen and workwomen have had their wages increased and their hours of labour reduced. Mentally and physically, there has been an improvement in the race, and consequently the movement has benefited the entire community. I have yet to learn that men and women banded together for the purpose of securing from the employing class a recognition of their rights have been instrumental in inflicting any harm on the community. In the case of Mr. Packer, what do we find? We find that the Employers Federation, at its last annual meeting, sent out a circular to the various employers in the Commonwealth asking them to assist in the circulation of the annual report of the Independent Workers Union. They also requested the employers to grant a preference to the “ Packerites “ over other employes, and, if they could not secure “ Packerites,” to accord a preference to immigrants. Here we witness a strange contradiction. Whilst they denounce preference to unionists as something which should not be granted, they request the employers to accord a preference to the members of the Independent Workers Union over anybody else. The only inference which we can draw from these facts is that the organization in question has been constituted for a special purpose. It has been constituted for the purpose of breaking down those industrial organizations which have been established for the purpose of improving the condition of the worker. The employers have throughout been consistent in their desire to obtain more and more in the direction of freedom of contract. We have been threatened by the Government that if we reject this Bill we shall be faced with the prospect of a double dissolution. That threat is intended to intimidate us, and to cause us to palter with what we regard as a vital principle. I say that we have no option but to reject a measure which makes an attack upon unionism in this insidious way. We cannot palter with the principle of preference to unionists, which is absolutely the bedrock of unionism. We are -justified, in. all the circumstances, in treating this Bill with contempt, and in giving it the short shrift it deserves. I have said that it is a paltry measure and a sham. It does not attack the principle as the Government declared their intention to attack it. They said that their one desire in life was to wipe from the statute-book the provisions embodying the insidious principle of preference to unionists. They went up and down the country making that declaration to the farmers. Senator McColl published a speech, with his name attached to it, dealing with the subject, and at various places he declared that his party, if returned, were going to abolish this fearful thing, preference to unionists, and to prevent the rural workers from benefiting by the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– I said that we would abolish preference in Government employment.
– No; the honorable senator went up and down the country inviting the farmer to believe that his one object in life was to relieve him of the possibility of the rural worker being able to secure from the Arbitration Court fair remuneration for his labour. I have been many years in the Labour movement, and I confess that I could never understand why a man who sells his labour in town should be in any better position than the man who sells his labour in a country district. If the worker in a city is given the protection of the Arbitration Court and the Wages Board to enable him to secure better wages and fewer hours of work, why should not the worker in the country be placed in the same position 1 Why should he be unable to secure the one or the other ? The fact that some persons contend that men and women work ing in the country are not entitled to the same protection under the law as those who work in town, can only be attributed to the selfishness that is ingrained in human nature. Senator McColl assured the farmers that if the rural workers were to continue, to be included in the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, they would be placed in a position, not only to penalize their employers, but to drive them out of existence. The farmers were told that as soon as the present Ministerial party reached the Treasury bench they would take action to prevent the awful crime on the part of the rural worker of asking for decent wages and improved conditions of work. They have been on the Treasury bench for some time now, and after all their flourish of trumpets, and all their protestations as to what they were going to do, they put forward this little measure dealing with so small a phase of the question that it is almost too insignificant and contemptible to be debated in an assembly of this kind. We have been informed that it is the intention of the Government to substitute the contract system for the day-labour system in the const-ruction of public works. No contractor undertaking a Government work of any importance can carry it out without the employment almost entirely of unionists, and the organizations to which his workmen belong will see that he does not employ nonunionists. If he does, the unionist workmen will not work with them. The Government cannot direct their contractors in this matter, and cannot prevent the men working for them going to the Arbitration Court to secure preference to unionists. Our honorable friends opposite are still wedded to old economic fallacies. They are blind to the progress which has been made, and the improvements that are going on in the industrial world. They fail to recognise the advance in education of the working classes, and their better appreciation of the rights to which they are entitled. They are still determined to prefer the contract system to the day-labour system and to abolish preference to unionists. I ask the Honorary Minister to say what the condition of affairs in Tasmania would be were it not foi- the organization of the industrial classes. Imperfect as it is at the present time, it has greatly improved, and the organization of workers has advanced the social and industrial conditions in that State. Will the honorable senator say that the men and women of Tasmania, and of the other States of the Commonwealth, who have been instrumental in bringing about this improvement in social and industrial life should not be given preference in employment over those who have done nothing to better their surroundings, but have been content to take advantage of what has been done, and suffered, and paid for by others? In answer to an interjection the honorable senator, in the course of his speech, claimed for members of the legal profession to which he belongs, preference, on the ground that by their education and training they had won their right to it. The same claim is made by members of the medical profession on the ground of the skill and talent they have acquired. But I can remember the great fight that was put up by the barristers in this State, and the way in which they resented the demand by solicitors to be allowed to practise as barristers. In the same way we know that no matter how important a case may be, a medical man, who is a member of the Medical Association, will not meet in consultation a man who is not a member of the association, though he may be as skilled, as intelligent, and as desirous of curing the patient as he is himself. Why should not the artisan be entitled to make the same claim ? He has laboured for years to acquire the skill which he offers for sale, his organization is responsible to his employer for his skill, and .why should he not be given preference for employment over a man who does not belong to his organization and has done nothing to improve the conditions of workers following the same occupation ? This measure is but an evidence that the employing classes generally still hanker after freedom of contract. I remember how we had to fight against that principle for years. It meant the right of the employer to employ whom he liked, pay him what he liked, and work him as long as he liked. Many honorable senators on this side know to their cost what it meant to have to labour when that principle was in force. We have striven to show the people that organization has been instrumental in raising them from that condition of things to something very much better. Surely, we have a right, in the interests of the community generally, to protect the people who, by their organizations, have abolished the principle of freedom of contract, and brought about better conditions for the workers. What are the Government trying to secure? Are they putting this proposal forward simply as a means of declaring their sincerity in professing to wish for a double dissolution ? If that be so, they can have it with all the pleasure imaginable. We shall be on safe ground in going to the people on this issue. But I cannot think that the Government are earnest in their desire to go to the electors on a question of this kind, because the principle of preference is already laid down in our Arbitration Act. It is not intended to remove it from that measure. We come back to this, therefore - that this small measure is brought in for very little reason, and that the Government merely propose to do away with preference to unionists in regard to the small amount of casual employment at their disposal, because it must be remembered that they have announced their intention of doing the greater part of their work by contract, and not by day labour. The men employed by the contractors will be unionists, who will be able to protect themselves through their unions. Consequently, the Bill can only affect a very few. I trust that we shall deal with it in the manner it deserves.
– I desire to say a few words on this question, as one who has given the best years of his life to advance the cause of trade unionism, which, I claim, has done more for the people of Australia than any other principle. I thoroughly believe in preference to unionists. For forty years I have been a member of my union, and during that time its members have had preference in all employment. They fought the battle long ago, and won it. They never intend to lose the principle. I can confidently say that, no matter what measure may be passed by this Government, or any other Government, the members of my union will retain the principle of preference wherever they may be employed. They are going to have it in Government employment, as well as in private employment, in spite of any Ministry that may be in power. If the Government are anxious to cause strife, I may tell them that there are hundreds of the membersof my union who are to-day working in Commonwealth employment. If the Government tell those men that they have* to work alongside non-unionists, there will be a crisis very soon. During the last fortnight I have had the pleasure, in New South Wales, to assist once more in fighting the battle of unionism. I can confidently say, from what I have seen in that State, that we are quite willing to have a battle royal with our opponents any time they like. This Government has been defeated, disgraced, politically dishonoured, and is clothed in the mere tattered rags of an Administration, and yet we find them hanging on to office.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - You fellows threw up the government.
– Because we were honorably bound to throw it up under the circumstances. A short time ago our opponents said that the Labour Government were hanging on to office, and we saw on the placards cartoons of little Willie crying in front of the tart shop. But we do not see any such cartoons to-day, when holy Joe is clinging to the tart shop. You could not shift him with a charge of dynamite. We are quite willing that there shall be a trial of strength, but we should like it to be on something better than this miserable fledgling which the Government have brought forth. When the Government were defeated in another place, a caucus meeting was held, and sat for three and a half hours. In the end it hatched the two little things that we have been dealing with.
– They also brought forth a chicken - the new postage stamp.
– If they wanted a battle royal, why did they not bring in a Bill to repeal the Maternity Bonus Act, the Land Tax Act, and the Old-age Pensions Act? Why did they not propose to place the latter on the contributory basis advocated by the AttorneyGeneral? If they had done that, we should have been at the polls long ago on a straight-out issue. But, instead, they have brought forward these miserable little things, which they suppose are going to pull the Labour party to pieces. I heard a Liberal leader say in New South Wales last week that the political pendulum was going to swing over to the Liberal side, and that the Labour party was going to be smashed up for evermore. The pendulum has swung, indeed, but it has hit the other party in the ear. They do not like it. Let us “ have a go” in Federal poli tics, and see who the pendulum is going to hit. No self-respecting politicians would occupy the position that the members of this Government do, and try to carry on business in face of the Opposition confronting them. If they had any political honesty they would have thrown up the sponge long ago, and appealed to the people. They will find, however, that the little excuse now trotted forth will be of no avail. I confess’ that I do not like electioneering. I hate it. But when I am brought up to the scratch, I like to have a fight over a big principle. However, I am perfectly satisfied to have a run on this little bantling, if the Government provide us with nothing else. I am satisfied to. appeal to the people on this issue, and have no fear of the result. If it should be against us, I should be perfectly satisfied to go back and earn my living where I came from. As to the gentleman who is leading the Government in the other Chamber, when I was associated with him a good many years ago, he was one of the staunchest and best fighters for trade unionism, and for preference to unionists. Now he has got into another groove, where, perhaps, the gilt is a little brighter. He says that he has a right to change his opinion. Of course he has. He also has a right to admit that he was wrong, but he does not do that. The difference with me is that when I was associated with him, I held certain principles, and I hold them still. I am confident that I shall hold them to my dying day, because they are principles to be proud of, and that a man may support in the confident belief that he is doing something for the benefit of his country and his fellows. Mr. Joseph Cook, on the 11th September, 1911, as reported in Hansard, volume LX., page 707, said this -
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, while he himself is skulking and deriving the benefit for which the other is paying and working.
Those are delightful words. They remind me of the days when Mr. Cook and I were brothers in the industrial movement in New South Wales, and he was a believer in the principles which I hold. I believe in those principles to-day, and for that reason I am here to give a vote on the question before us. Senator Barker reminded us of the men who fought this battle in the past, and were deprived of their means of livelihood for so doing. I myself was almost hunted out of my native city because I dared to be a unionist. There was a time in the history of unionism when only working men were banded together for their own protection. To-day the employers are also united to fight the unionists. The president of the Employers Federation has laid it down that there are only two parties in politics to-day - the party of trade unionism, and the party that is fighting them. He said that his party had to amass a large sum of money to fight this curse of Australia. I am pleased indeed that at last the Employers Federation has laid down the doctrine that there are only two parties in our politics - the party of unionism, which is the party of humanity, and the party opposed to us, which is the party of gold. In the early days, if an employer deprived a man of the opportunity to earn a living in one yard, he could always go to another yard. But to-day the employers are banded together, and if a man dares to be a trade unionist he cannot possibly get a living in his native laud. I was discharged from a place where I had worked for fifteen years because I was honorary secretary to my union. I went to another employer, from whom I got a position, but the first day I was working there the foreman said, “You will have to go, because you are blackballed.” I left that employment. I went away almost broken-hearted, and thought that I would have to leave my native country; but God was good ‘to me, and I have never looked back from that day to this. It was the start of a career that took me a little farther away from the hard battles of life. I got a job at my trade with the Government, and from that job I advanced step by step, until to-night I am here for the same purpose as I was in my union, and that is to fight the battles of the people. I am here to fight this little charge of dynamite which is going to burst up the great union movement. I am going to give the measure as short a shrift as possible. I will not mention that awful thing that is talked about, but honorable senators know what I mean. If it has to come to pass, let it come, and we will go to the country and fight on a principle which, I believe, will be upheld by . the people of my State. To show that preference to unionists is only a sham so far as the Commonwealth Government are concerned, let me point out that there are very few of their employes who will be concerned in it at all. The Commonwealth employs 29,000 persons. Of that number 17,000 are permanent employes whom this measure cannot possibly effect, so that there is only the very small number of 12,000 employes whom it will interfere with. The State I represent has its own industrial laws. It has its award, which has been faithfully kept. The Commonwealth Government are trying to take to themselves the right of over-riding the State laws. Now, those laws give to the members of my union preference, because employers cannot get anybody else. In the iron shipbuilding trade, every man in Australia is a trade unionist. Every man who comes out from the Old Country - and quite a number have come out during the past few years - is a trade unionist. How are our honorable friends going to manage with preference there ? It is in the hands of the trade unions, and will be kept. In the Commonwealth there are 750,000 adult workers, but of that number 450,000 are trade unionists, and this miserable fledgling is brought down to try to hit 12,000 persons out of 750,000 workers, including 450,000 trade unionists. If the Government were sincere in their endeavour to promote a bitter struggle, they have failed lamentably. The Labour party could treat the Bill with contempt, because it is not going to interfere with the working of the trade unions.
– You are fighting it very hard, though.
– So far as I am concerned, the Bill could go through . now.
– Let it go.
– But a principle is involved. If the enemy issues a challenge and wants to fi°iit us on a certain matter, we cannot choose our weapon; it would be cowardly to run away, and the Labour party arenot going to do that. If the Government bring forth this little bantling and challenge usto fight, of course we are not going to run away. We could look with contempt on this little Bill ; we could look with contempt on the Government of tatters and rags - a Government who have handled “the tart shop” for all they could get.
Personally, I am better pleased to see the Labour party on the Opposition benches than on the other side, if they were there with the majority that this Government have.
– Your best plan will be to make a little amendment to save your face.
– So far as New South Wales is concerned, I would prefer to see the Labour party in that situation than in the position of this miserable Government, hanging on to office as long as possible by every means and pretext. It is better for us to be in the fighting line, battling for the people who sent us here, than to be on the other side struggling, as our opponents are, for the spoils of office. The Government claim that they are going to do away with the day-labour system. They have every right to take that course at any time they like, but if that is their intention, what is the ruse in bringing down this miserable thing to cause a fight ? If there is to be a battle, let us have a battle straight out. This cry of the abolition of preference to unionists is not going to hurt us in any great degree. I thoroughly believe that we are in a position to-day to take up the gauntlet that has been thrown down. All I have to say to our opponents is, “ Let the fight be soon.” The trade union movement is one that has done more for the people of Australia than has any other movement. A man has only to pick up his newspaper in the morning to find that the efforts of the trade unions of Australia are being recognised all over the world. The people are being educated. There is industrial unrest everywhere. Why? Because the conditions of the working classes in the older lands are not what they should be. The conditions of the working classes in our own Fatherland are a disgrace to those who had the making of the laws in the early days. Since the return of the Imperial Parliamentary party from the Commonwealth, they have paid a tribute to the Labour Government who vacated office in the Commonwealth, and to the Labour Government in New South Wales to-day. If that compliment had been paid by Viscount Haldane to the Fusion Government, there would not have been type black enough, or headlines big enough, to print it in every newspaper throughout Australia. There has not been a leading article published on the compliment. There has been nothing said on the statement of Viscount Haldane that the Labour Government in Australia had handled the defence question in a masterly manner, and one that could well be copied by those in the Old Country to-day. Lord Emmott said that, so far as education, was concerned, the Labour Government of New South Wales had done far. more to promote higher education than any other Government had ever done. He said, too, “ If you expect the working men of England to take an interest in the Empire, you must teach them that the Empire takes an interest in them, and to do that you must see that they get fair, clean, living conditions. When you do that, you will have copied Australia, and done something for the working classes in this great working country.” When we get tributes of that description from statesmen, and from gentlemen, what do we care for what we hear from the paltry politicians in high positions in Australia to-day - men who have not the foresight to see before them for ten or twenty years; to see what this country will be when it is carrying a population of 20,000,000 or 50,000,000? The gift of foresight in Australia has been shown by the Labour party. They have shown it in every State in which they have held sway. It has been shown by the Labour Government in the Federal arena. When we get tributes from Imperial statesmen, we can afford to look with contempt upon the paltry politicians whom we have opposing us in this Parliament. I refer to the politicians who bring forth little measures as a trial and test of strength. If they are sincere, they will say, “ We will undo the social legislation of the last Government. We will do away with the maternity bonus; with the oldage pension ; with all those social schemes that have emanated from the Labour Government.” Our opponents have not the pluck, or the hardihood, or the political manhood to attempt anything of that kind. I am glad to see that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is smiling. He has not the foresight to see anything of this description. He only sees himself in his present position. I do not blame him, for he cannot help it. He has got into a political groove from which he cannot possibly escape. I believe that he is a good man at heart. I believe that if he was on his own political pedestal he would have opinions of this kind. But he is bound hard-and-fast by the cast-iron pledge and Caucus of the great Liberal party. He is bound hand and foot. He has to come to heel; he has to come to whip.
– What party did you say?
– The great Liberal Caucus party.
– I was amused at your taking credit for the old-age pension system.
– I refer to the great statesmen who are whipped into line by the daily press of Australia. We had one of them stating here that if the Melbourne Age did not mind what it was about it would be ruined; that it would lose its advertisements in one day. That threat was very nearly put into effect. The party who to-day are behind the newspapers, the Employers Federation, the trusts, the combines, and all those institutions that are going to throttle the people of Australia in the near future, cannot help our honorable friends. They may be good in their intentions singly, as I am, but when they are banded together, as they are in that cast-iron party, they have no option ; they must follow the dictates of the great daily press. I only hope that they will, in their political honesty, throw down the gauntlet, not on this miserable bantling, but on some great social question, so that we can go to the people and fight them on the open battleground. If we are not victorious, we shall be able to take our beating, as we have done many a time before. No matter what may come, the Labour movement is going right ahead; it is the people’s movement. No matter what reverses may be met with, the indications are world-wide that we shall have federations all over the known world when the people can see the great privileges that are to be got by social legislation. If you advance the people as a whole you advance the nation as a whole. Until you have better conditions for your people, as Lord Emmott said, until you give them sufficient to enable them to live a clean, healthy life, you will never get them to take an interest in the Empire. That is the feeling in Australia to-day. The object of the Labour party is to give to every man willing to work sufficient to enable him to live a clean and decent life, and to educate his children in the manner in which they should be educated.
– We are now discussing the second reading of a Bill which is termed the “ Government Preference Prohibition Bill,” but I venture to say that its title ought to be altered to read, “ The Government Exhibition Bill.” If ever a Government made an exhibition of themselves, certainly the Government who are in office to-day have done so. Only this week we have had one exhibition of their fighting qualities when they presented what they thought was a cannon at our heads, only to discover that it was not even a toy pistol. I refer to the Postal Voting Restoration Bill. If they had any sense of decency and responsibility, the way in which that measure was treated in this Chamber yesterday would have induced them to resign their positions. However, they are still determined to pursue an alleged courageous course, with the result that we have before us the Bill which is now engaging our attention. I think it is wise at this stage to ask ourselves whether it was necessary for the Government to use legislative machinery to abolish preference to unionists in the Commonwealth Service. If the adoption of that course was necessary, why did Ministers preface the introduction of this Bill by action in another direction? Not only did they indicate in their statement of policy that they would take action in that direction, but they took action. Yet we now have this Bill brought forward. As proof of my allegation; I have merely to read paragraph 2 of the Ministerial statement of policy which was presented to us at the beginning of the session, and which says -
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.
That is the statement which they made when this Parliament reassembled in July last. When we view the Bill from that stand -point, and that standpoint alone, it can only be designated a sham, and a very poor sham at that. Why did not the Government attack the principle embodied in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act which provides for the granting of preference to unionists?
– They were not game to do that.
Senntor NEEEDHAM. - But they were game enough on the hustings to say that they would do it. The same statement was repeated in their declaration of policy. There they say -
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 any members of an 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.
Not only did they make election pledges when they were practically irresponsible individuals, so far as government was concerned, but when they faced this Parliament as responsible Ministers they put those words into the mouth of the Governor-General. I wish to know what has since prompted them to depart from the attitude which they then took up ? Why did they not boldly, and at once, submit a direct amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in connexion with the question of preference to unionists, and the matter of allowing rural workers access to the Arbitration Court? Why did they not do that immediately, and thus deal practically with the whole of the workers of Australia ?
SenatorRae. - They want a little encouragement first. They want to get this little Bill through.
– If they, want encouragement in that direction, I will render them all the assistance that I can by giving this Bill a very short shrift. They made a great boast about protecting those engaged in rural industries, but in their policy statement they declared they would prevent those workers from appealing to the Arbitration Court. That was a most remarkable change of front, and it is just as well that the memories of the electors should be refreshed in regard to it. This is the Government whose members claim to be in favour of freedom, of liberty, and of equality. They have blazoned that claim forth from every public platform on which they have stood, and their words have been repeated daily in the columns of the press. But let us analyze their intentions. At the present time every man in the land, who is a member of an industrial organization registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, has a right to appeal to the
Arbitration Court for justice. But this liberty-loving Government - this Government whose members champion freedom and equality - whilst willing to concede that right to everybody else, desire to deny it to the rural workers. This compels me to ask, “ Is the rural worker, who is engaged in our primary industries, composed of different clay from that of which we ourselves are composed ? Is he composed of different clay from that of which the members of other callings in Australia are composed ? Are not rural workers the handiwork of the same Creator ? Are they not residents of the Commonwealth?” If we are going to follow the tenets of justice, having established, by legislative enactment, a tribunal to which every other worker in the land can appeal for a redress of his grievances, why should its doors be closed against the man or woman who is engaged in our primary industries? I ask that question now.. I have asked it before. I presume that I shall continue to ask it without obtaining a reply from the occupants of the Treasury benches. I confidently say that there is no fairminded man or woman in Australia who can defend the attitude of the Government in desiring to prevent the rural workers from gaining access to the Arbitration Court. I have said that these workers are composed of the same clay as ourselves, and that they are the handiwork of the same Creator. The same duties devolve upon them as citizens which devolve upon the rest of us. They marry, they rear children, they are charged with the responsibility of clothing and educating those children just as are the workers in any other calling. If they consider that they are not receiving a fair remuneration for their labour, why should they not have the right to appeal to the Arbitration Court in the same way as have other workers? I contend that if an appeal to that tribunal is going to injure their employer, the present social position is absolutely intolerable. I ask the Government again why they did not attack the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? They will not supply an answer. May I be permitted to supply it for them ? They are afraid to attack that Act because they know that if they did so successfully, we should have to say farewell to industrial peace in the Commonwealth. I say that that Statute has been the means of saving Australia from an industrial upheaval. There has not been one solitary award given by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to which objection has been taken by either side. Every decision given by the President of that tribunal has been loyally observed, and his decisions have affected thousands and thousands of persons throughout Australia. What was responsible for the establishment of that Court? There would never have been a Conciliation and Arbitration Act in existence had it not been for trade unionism. There would never have been in this Parliament members of the Australian Labour party had it not been for trade unionism. It is to unionism that we owe the growth of that party - a party which has come to stay, and a party which is making its mark, not only in the history of Australia, but in that of the civilized world. The aim of trade unionists has been to secure industrial peace and the best conditions that can be obtained for their comrades, and to obtain them peacefully and without resort to the dread arbitrament of the strike. All this has cost money. Every man who has been a member of an organization has had to foot the bill. He has had to pay his contributions to his union. It has taken a considerable time to work up a union, to have it registered, and to bring it before the Arbitration Court. It has required funds to engage assistance, legal or otherwise, to place its claim before the Court; and then the victory has often been for the union. But the man who has remained outside the ranks of the unionists, and who has refused to pay one half-penny towards the cost of organization, reaps all the benefit which his fellow-workers, who are members of the union, have fought and paid for. To abolish preference to unionists is simply to reverse the position, and grant preference to nonunionists. I want my honorable friends opposite to say whether they can justify that? I do not think that they can. They have accused members of the party on this side of being assisted to their present positions in Parliament by the members of trade unions. I am proud to admit that every member of a union in the land has always been willing and eager to place representatives of the Labour movement within the legislative halls of the nation. Our friends opposite have always denied that they have been assisted by the Employers Federation.
– The honorable senator should use the singular; there is only one friend opposite.
– The sole occupant of the Treasury bench, as the representative of the party opposite, has always denied that they have been assisted by the employers, but facts are on record to show that they have been so assisted. We know that the employers have been assisting the association which Senator Barker so aptly termed the “ Packerite “ combination. During the last elections, I had an opportunity of looking at a circular issued by the employers’ organization, one paragraph in which was headed “ Independent Workers.” In that paragraph it was stated that the Independent Workers Union, the general secretary of which is Mr. Packer, would establish bureaus and assist men to secure employment. Only the very best men were to be assisted, as it was desired to secure men of character, steadiness, and ability; but before assistance would be given to secure employment for an applicant, he had to pay ls. entrance fee, and pledge himself to pay 6d. per week to the association afterwards. Is there not preference there? Before any member of the Independent Workers Union would be assisted to obtain employment, he had to make his contribution to the union. I believe that the leading spirit in bringing this Bill before us is a lover of freedom of contract. Freedom of contract is dead and done with. No sane man can justify it. lt simply meant for the worker freedom to starve. “ Starve, if you please, and you must starve unless you accept the wages I offer you.” Freedom of contract was rampant prior to the worker recognising that he had to join with his fellowworker to protect their mutual interests. I am not yet more than three score years and ten, but I remember when, if I went to my employer individually, as I did on many occasions, to ask for an increase of wages or better conditions of employment, I got a very short shrift. But when I went to my employer as a member of a union - and I am proud to say that I have been a member of a union since I was sixteen years of age, and could not have entered it earlier - and made representations on behalf of the union, the employer knew that he had not to deal with one individual, ‘but with a body of men. He could not say to them, “ Accept my terms or starve.” He knew that his business would be at a stand-still if he did so. He realized that he had to reckon, not with one man, but perhaps with thousands. Hence I say that modern trade unionism, as we know it, has been the means of killing freedom of contract, much to the disgust of many of our capitalistic opponents. But it is dead, and they know it, and dead it will remain. I presume that the Government are under the impression that they will frighten honorable senators on this side by bringing forward this Bill. I am not going to call it a bantling, a chimera, or a shibboleth, because, puny as it is, I recognise that it -contains a principle. Whether it affects 12,000 persons in the Government service or only twelve, I regard it as a challenge, and, as such, I am prepared to take it up. If it will be the means of hastening a double dissolution, for which the Government profess to be so anxious, I am personally prepared to face the music at any time, no matter what the cost may be to myself. I am not here to consider my personal interests, but as a representative of Labour and the workers of Australia. It is their interests I have to consider, and not my own. If I regard this Bill as an attempt to rob any of the workers of Australia, no matter in what calling they may be engaged, of advantages they have secured in the long and arduous struggle they have maintained, I am here to say, “ All right, if we are going to have a fight, let us have it with tlie gloves off, and with bare knuckles.” The only regret I shall have, if I have any at all, should the rejection of this measure hasten a double dissolution, will be that I am not fighting on a broader issue for this principle. As I recognise that this Bill affects the principle of preference to unionists, puny though the challenge may be, I am prepared to accept it, and, if necessary, appeal to the people of Australia for their verdict. I have not the slightest anxiety as to what that verdict will be. I have already said that the people of Australia are fair-minded, and, as lovers of fair play, they have no wish to see one worker given an undue advantage over another. If this is the gauntlet which the Government has thrown down, I, as one of the party on this side, am quite prepared to take it up.
.- Perhaps the Honorary Minister will have no objection to my moving the adjournment of the debate?
– I think we ought to go on. I think it would convenience honorable senators to go on.
– There has been no time lost to-day.
– I am not complaining, but I say that there is more time left for the discussion to-night.
– I understand that this Bill is gradually developing into the grand challenge Bill of the Government, but it is somewhat of a farce, in view of the declaration of the magnificent policy which the present Government were to put forward in direct opposition to that of the Fisher Government. That magnificent policy has been reduced now to a Bill that is without substance.
– A soap bubble.
– It would be an injustice to the soap bubble to so describe it. There is one aspect of the Bill dealing with preference to unionists to which I should like to refer. There does not seem to be any general recognition by the Government that preference to unionists, as enforced by the unions to-day, is not a question of option or of legislation, but is inevitable. Practically, the declaration of the Government is that they will not grant preference to unionists. Do they think that by carrying a declaratory resolution to that effect they will do away with the desire for preference to unionists on the part of organized workers? Their organization is so solid that even a Liberal Government may find that they have no option in this matter, but will be reduced to the position that they will be unable to secure efficient workers outside the ranks of unionists. The ordinary forms of government are merely the shell, and the dominating factor in the every-day life of the people in every portion of the earth is represented by the industrial conditions, not merely of manufacturing industries, but of all the pursuits of life by which those things are produced which the people eat, drink, and wear, and by which they are sheltered. It is recognised in Australia and in other countries to-day that there is a hig army of employes to be considered, who are dependent on the wages they receive from their employment in the various industries, which , in turn, they use to purchase the commodities necessary to sustain the lives of themselves and those dependent on them. On the other hand, under our existing social organization we have the fortunate few who possess wealth. We have looked in vain for many centuries to these people for a voluntary movement to do justice to the worker. Might I ask those who represent so-called Liberal thought when, in the history of the British Empire, which has been such a powerful factor in commerce and production, there has been any voluntary proposal by the holders of wealth to do anything like justice to the workers to secure to them a fair proportion of the wealth they produce, or a reasonable enjoyment of the luxuries of life? Many of the pages of our history, which record the abject slavery in which the workers and their families toiled years ago, are of such a character that we are almost ashamed to read them. These evils have been remedied, by what means? Not by the legislation of Governments. If we had depended upon voluntary action by employers and their representatives, would these old conditions have been removed ? Certainly not. The remedy has been effected by the workers themselves as the result of collective action, that is to say, by industrial unionism. The result of the success of the workers in this direction was that the employers organized themselves into chambers of manufactures, and later into political organizations. These grew at even a greater rate in wealth and strength than the organizations of the workers of the world. With the growth of industries, and of machinery, and the abolition of handicraftsmanship mammoth factories grew up. There was an ever-increasing army of workers, and, owing to the accumulation of capital, a decreasing number of employers controlling industries. The consequence is that in the Commonwealth of Australia, and in the world generally, over 80 per cent, of the people are born destined for the whole of their lives to live upon this earth in the production of wealth for others, with no hope of substantially improving their lot. The spirit of unionism, however, has led the average intelligent citizen who has read the history of industry to recognise that it is hopeless to expect relief without organization. Unionism consequently has been probably the most powerful’ factor in the improvement of the condition of the average citizen. Even Conservative candidates nowadays do not venture to advocate a straight-out opposition to Labour organization. Take the case of Senator McColl, who is a typical Victorian Conservative. He announces that he is against preference to unionists, but is in favour of Wages Boards, and he instances the increase of wages secured by their means. It is true that the workers have been benefited by Wages Boards. I believe that in this State they received increases to the amount of something like £10,000,000 in ten years. But how were the Wages Boards themselves established ? Not by voluntary action on the part of the party now occupying the Government benches, but in spite of them. They were secured in consequence of the indignation of the people at the sweating conditions which were rife all over Australia,’ and especially, I am sorry to say, in the State of Victoria. The Boards had to be fought for and won, in spite of Conservative opposition. The workers grasped the idea that Wages Boards were beneficial to the community, and an aid to industrial peace. They demanded more and more legislation of that class until the Conservatives had to accept the inevitable. To-day, following what they supposed to be the line of least resistance, they profess to be advocates of Wages Boards as against the arbitration method. They overlooked the fact that it was the unions which brought pressure to bear upon Parliament to wring even this modicum of justice from the employers. How are Ministers and their party attempting to meet the growth of unionism ? They are attempting to undermine it by bogus or Packer unions. I regret to say that the political party which now dominates the Ministerial benches had almost unanimously thrown in its weight in favour of these bogus organizations. Time after time Ministers have co-operated at public meetings with those who are instrumental in promoting these bogus organizations, whose object is to divide the workers. In Victoria some interesting facts have been revealed in this connexion. In their keen desire to show how legal these organizations were their promoters registered them under the Friendly Societies Act. They evidently were nob aware at the time that one of the requirements of that Act was that organizations registered under it must file balance-sheets with the Registrar. The balance-sheets of these . organizations, of what are termed free labourers, show that £3 out of <£4 of the funds have been subscribed either by members of the political party supporting the Government or by the Employers Federation. Evidence has been given in the Arbitration Court before Mr. Justice Higgins showing that members of the Liberal party in Victoria found money to help to defeat the .workers in the Arbitration Court. Yet Ministers in this Chamber will probably tell us that they are sympathetic towards unions, and only desire to keep tlie organizations pure and sweet according to their own ideas. How can the workers expect sympathetic administration and justice from Ministers who actually co-operate with those who find the money to defeat the workers in this way ? They tell us that they are not against trade unionism as such. They are not, according to their own professions, against preference when it is administered by a Judge. The truth is that they lack the moral courage to advocate the total abolition of -preference, because they know that the people of Australia are in favour of the principle. They say that it is not a fair thing to grant preference in Commonwealth employment, because the whole of the people are taxed, and all those who are taxed should have equal rights to employment. May I say, in reply, that I do not believe that any person in Australia is taxed in regard to any of the industrial undertakings owned by the Commonwealth or by a State. There is an immense difference between controlling the governing functions of the Commonwealth and industrial enterprises into which the Government may enter. Take the Harness Factory. In what way is that a governing function of the Commonwealth ? Take the Small Arms Factory and the Clothing Factory. Surely the employes in those industrial institutions are engaged in ordinary industrial pursuits. It is true that the factories are owned by the Commonwealth, but those who are working in them ought to have the same rights and privileges as men who work in privately-owned factories. What is the difference between a great carrying agency owned by the State, like the railways, and a carrying agency owned by a private concern ? We have about 17,000 permanent employes in the Commonwealth Service. Most of them are engaged in purely governing functions - in connexion with the Treasury, the maternity allowance, the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, and so forth. I could understand it if the Government laid down the principle that no preference was to be granted in regard to employment in connexion with these purely governing functions. But an ordinary worker getting something like 8s. 6d. or 9s. a day upon a Commonwealth undertaking is no different from any other worker in the employment of a private individual. He ought- to enjoy the privileges which are extended to ordinary citizens. At the last elections there was a good deal of screaming from the platforms, partly in this State, in regard to the alleged tyranny of unionism. Yet Ministers have introduced this Bill without giving a single illustration of any harm that was done to any individual by the preference granted by the previous Government. When challenged they merely tell us about what Mr. O’Malley did and what Mr. O’Malley said. They instanced the circular which Mr. O’Malley sent out. But they have never produced a single case where an injury or injustice was done to any of these men. Take the ordinary occupations to which preference to unionists would apply, and that is temporary carpenters, bricklayers, and labourers in the Commonwealth Service. Do honorable senators opposite know that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, when the Commonwealth wishes to employ a carpenter, it has no option, but is compelled to employ a unionist? It is likewise in regard to the bricklayer. If the Commonwealth wanted 100 bricklayers to-morrow, I do not think that it could get a single non-unionist in that industry. Again, take the instrumentfitters in the Telephone Branch. Not a single non-unionist is employed there today. Why ? To show the class of men which our opponents are backing up, let me say that prior to the application of that union to the Arbitration Court under the Commonwealth Arbitration (Public Service) Act, out of about 1,200 men there were eleven non-unionists. When the union went before Mr. Justice Higgins, he granted them an average increaseof about £24 per annum, showing distinctly that prior to that award the-
Commonwealth, if it was not sweating the men, was certainly not paying them a fair and reasonable rate of wage, when it should have been the model employer. The conclusion of the award read, “ The above award shall be paid to members of the claimant association.” Did the eleven ‘ nonunionists stand by the glorious principle of freedom and the desire for liberty to stop outside the union? No. As soon as they saw a possibility of getting £24 a year by paying 2s. Gd. into a trade union, the secretary could not dodge them when running after him to pay him their money. The eleven non-unionists stood idly by, and failed to recognise their responsibility, financial and moral, in conducting the case before the Arbitration Court. Let me now show what sort of a Liberal Government we have on the Treasury bench. When the award was made the Government immediately, over the head of Mr. Justice Higgins, gave an increase to about two individuals who stood out of the union. In Queensland, however, there was no branch of the organization at the time. The men did not make an application to the Arbitration Court, and though that award was made by Mr. Justice Higgins about five months ago, and came into operation nearly two months ago, the Queensland instrumentfitters to-day are getting, on an average, £2i a year less than are the instrumentfitters in every other part of the Commonwealth. Is that how the Liberal Government treat” the non-unionists ‘whom they appreciate? It is now necessary, evidently, for these persons to fight the Government, who claim to be their friends and supporters, to make a fresh application to the Court to have the Queensland brunch recognised. But the Government who crow over non-unionists, who plead that they are the friends of those particular persons, deliberately sweat them to show the reward of their splendid virtue in seeking liberty. I cannot understand why the Government, who love these individuals so well, do not rush in to aid them. Let me take another aspect of the question. What did the men ask in desiring “preference to unionists”? I do not think that that phrase really expressed the actual meaning of the appeal. The proper words to have used were “ Protection to unionists.” It is not a question of putting the unionist and the non-unionist on an equality. Either you must have preference to or protection of unionists on the one hand, or you must have preference to non-unionists on the other hand. What has been the history of all these cases? Hundreds of men who desire, were they free, to join a union - men who want to co-operate with their fellows - have been told by the employer time and again that the very moment they joined an organization their services would no longer be required. Consequently, men charged with the responsibility of providing for families - nien not very strong in their manhood, but strong in the responsibility they had to shoulder - time and again put their manhood on one side, and practically were compulsorily made to be nonunionists or blacklegs by the tyranny of the employer. ‘ Yet the present Government talk about liberty, about freedom, about the equality they desire to extend to the men whom they have tyrannized through the employers, the newspapers, and the political organizations only too long. On many occasions I have had a look at a genuine non-unionist, and it may be interesting to Liberals to hear my opinion. I am sorry that Senator McColl is leaving the chamber, because he lives in Bendigo, and knows the expression of the people’s views. It was my fortune to land in Bendigo two days prior to the last election. The miners there had taken a ballot on the question as to whether they were prepared to work with non-unionists or not. Needless to say, it was then a burning question. Of course, the usual number of goodly ladies of the Women’s National League took up the front seats at the meeting, and, needless to say, there were plenty of Liberals who were going to commit me to the decision of the miners on the eve of the election! I think that there were only about fifteen who rose to ask the question. They were surprised when they got the definite answer that I indorsed the decision of the unionist miners not to work with the nonunionists. Some persons said, “How foolish you were ! Why did you not bluff the question? Why did you give such a straight-out answer?” Despite the fact that every Bendigo newspaper gave a full report of the reply, we won on every question of the referenda at Bendigo, we won the seat in the House of Representatives, and I had the pleasure of topping the poll there for the Senate. That is a typical illustration as to whether the people of this State or of the Commonwealth really desire preference to unionists. So strong are they in the desire that they would practically even countenance that drastic decision of the miners not to work with non-unionists. I have never been one to condemn the non-unionist in a wholesale fashion. He has excited my sympathy to a certain extent, because he has never made the slightest effort to improve his position in life. Not only that, but he has been so pitiable from the point of view of manhood that he has never made a reasonable struggle to win more of this world’s goods for the wife whom he promised to love, honour, and cherish, and for the children whom he brought into, the world. Instead of fighting for his wife and family, he was prepared on all occasions to abandon them mercilessly to the care of the bosses, no matter how unscrupulous they were. But he has never been second when it was a case of holding out his hand to receive some reward of the work done for him by the unionists. We have appealed to these men to come in and share the benefits of our organization; we have reasoned with them ; we have begged of them to join. We have shown them that where men have paid 6d. into the organization they have received £1 in return, but it was all of no avail. Is it because they love or understand liberty that they take up this attitude? Never have they fought for one principle of liberty. All their desire has been that they may have the pleasure of permanent work. That is what makes the non-unionist say, “ God bless the boss, and may he long keep me in his employ.” It is of no use to denounce this class of man. It is of no use to call him a blackleg or a traitor. All those things have been tried. There is only one thing left to do, and that is to pray for him, because he is incapable of helping himself. Then take as an illustration the district of Bendigo, about which Senator McColl knows something. How long have men there lived under Liberal Governments? All their lives. Can the honorable senator name any other class in the Commonwealth who are in such a disgraceful condition as are the worn-out and disabled miners of Bendigo ? What did his Liberal
Government, what have his Liberal politics, ever done for the miners, beyond taking the hat round, or waiting for a wealthy man to leave a few pounds, so that these worn-out and disabled men might be kept alive during their last few years? What has the honorable senator done outside of that?
– They have brought in every benefit that the miners have today.
– What benefit ? The men work practically down in the bowels of the earth, in foul air; men thirty-five and forty years of age walk round and wait for death to meet them. For what wage? For 7s. 6d. a shift. Then, to the honorable senator’s everlasting discredit, he, with others, co-operated to black-list men until they were brought before the Court. On what ground ? For conspiracy to tyrannize over workmen.
– That is a falsehood.
– Was not your firm one of the defendants?
– Order ! Senator McColl must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it, sir.
– If the honorable senator will deny that his firm was one of the defendants in that case, I will gladly withdraw my statement.
– Yes, if you will tell the whole history of the case.
– Was the honorable senator’s firm one of the defendants in that case?
– Yes; and the case was withdrawn.
– Yes, when the defendants practically conspired again, bought the blackleg off, and sent him out of the district.
– That is - what I am not allowed to say.
– Yet the honorable senator speaks of fighting for the miners !
– I would like to say what I think about your speech.
– Of course the honorable senator would. He has said it before. I am trying to indicate by what means we are robbed of the opportunity of securing the evidence of some of the tyranny manifested against the unionists in this country. What is the position of the Bendigo miners under Liberal laws, men who have delved and produced the wealth creating millionaires? The particularly heavy death-rats shows that these men do not lead the ordinary human life, but practically go in at seventeen or eighteen years of age, knowing that they are doomed to die twenty years before the normal time. Yet never did the present Government, and the politicians who have been associated with that side, bring forward any legislation to benefit the miners prior to the rise of Labour in politics and the solid organization of the unionists.
– Does the honorable senator adhere to the statement which he made in regard to the observance of the award of the Arbitration Court in the case of the postal electricians!
– I say that the men have not received the increase in Queensland, unless it has been paid within the past two days.
– I am merely sounding a note of warning in regard to the honorable senator’s statement, and I am doing so in the most friendly way.
– My authority is the organization which made the complaint, and I believe that its statement was made in good faith. If the Honorary Minister is prepared to say that the increment has been paid, I am ready to accept his assurance. But as late as last Saturday night the men themselves informed me that the increment had not been paid in Queensland.
– The honorable senator’s statement in regard to the action of the Government was inaccurate, and I say that in a friendly way.
– My statement was that the average increase granted to the men under the award of the Arbitration Court amounted, approximately, to £24 per head, and the Government had not yet paid it in Queensland. That is the statement which was made to me, and I believed it to be accurate. But if Senator Clemons will assure me that it is not correct, I shall be only too glad.
– I have made inquiries during the course of the honorable senator’s speech, and I find that some considerable time ago . the Government ordered that money to be paid.
– I do not know anything about it being ordered’ to be paid. I have no desire that the Honorary Minister shall put words into my mouth. I say that the men have not received the increase granted, under the award of the Court.
– We do not want to quibble on a point like that. The honorable senator was accusing the Government, and the Government have done what I say.
– The award was laid upon the table of the Senate during the second week that this Parliament met, and was to come into operation thirty days later. My information is that the postal electricians in Queensland have not yet received the increment due to them under that award. Ifit takes all. that while to pay the increase, it is time that we got more progressive men on the Government benches.I ask the Honorary Minister whether it is ‘ inaccurate to say that the award was granted to members of the claimant association, but that it has been extended to men who are not members of that association ? I was about to point out that during the recent election campaign I carefully read the reports of the speeches of our opponents. I never had an opportunity of reading my own speeches. I believe that ‘the total space allotted to the reporting of my speeches in the Aye and Argus during that campaign was about 5 inches. I will be generous to say that it was 7 inches. What does that mean 1 It means that a preference was extended, if not to the nonunionist, at least to the Liberal unionist. Members of the Labour party have never had an opportunity of explaining through the press of this country what preference to unionists really means. The public have an idea that merely because we cannot browbeat an individual into becoming a member of a union, we desire to boycott and starve him. Of course, such an idea is absolutely erroneous. To my mind, preference to unionists is not a question of sentiment at all, but of the scientific organization of industry. If industry is to be well organized and conducted on scientific lines, its progress must be uninterrupted. It must not be subjected to disturbances such as locks-out and strikes. Did we secure industrial peace by using the weapon of the strike? No. The workers were the first to volunteer to forego the use of that weapon, conditionally upon an Arbitration Court being established to which they could appeal for an industrial award which would allow them to work in peace for a number of years. If those awards are to be honoured, the employers, on the one hand, must be organized to jealously guard their rights, whilst the workers, on the other hand, must loyally abide by them. Undoubtedly the biggest problem which has to be faced by any Government . in any. civilized country is that of securing industrial peace. This subject, however, has been worn threadbare. If the Government desire to fight upon the question of preference to unionists, I, in conjunction with my colleagues, invite them to do so. We believe in unionism, and if they wish to test public feeling upon that question we shall heartily welcome their challenge. But this is a National Parliament, and no matter to what party we may belong, I say that we ought to p reserve its dignity. That result is not li kely to be achieved by the Government presenting for our consideration a Bill which does not affect a solitary individual in the Commonwealth to-day. The Honorary Minister has stated that the measure has been brought forward in the interests of clean government. What is the imputation conveyed.in that statement 1 It is that when the Labour Government were in office their methods were unclean and corrupt. I ask Senator Clemons to point to one instance in which their methods were unclean and corrupt. The truth is that the present Government in their desire to rake up a fictitious opposition against Labour and all its works, had to get hold of some catch cries. The abolition of preference to unionists is one of those, cries. They were returned to office as the result of the magnificent support which they received at the hands of the press, and they have been compelled to produce this Bill, which I regard as an expiring effort on the part of the now rapidly departing Conservatives who have too long controlled the destinies of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Senator Buzacott) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented and (on motion by Sena tor Millen) read a first time.
– I present the report and evidence of the Select Committee on the case of Mr. Henry Chinn, together with minutes of proceedings, evidence, and appendices, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in . the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.47p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 December 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131210_senate_5_72/>.