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Tuesday, 5 December 1905
Page: 6191

Mr McCAY (Corinella) - It is a matter for congratulation that the long silence of the supporters of the Government was broken during the last sitting by the speech of the honorable member for Moira, and that we then had an opportunity to hear from the honorable member for Bland a restatement of his views in regard to the union label question, and of the reasons why he and those associated with him are supporting the proposals of the Attorney-General. But I was very much struck by the fact that, while his remarks were directed towards proving the necessity for the adoption of the proposed new clause, they in no way showed that it will meet the evil of which he complained. He told us, for example, of the existence of sweating in South Australia, and I suppose that all honorable members, when they hear of cases of that kind, feel just indignation, and regard any reasonable remedial legislation as justifiable. I venture to think, however, that the honorable member made an enormous jump from his statement of facts to the conclusion which he wished us to draw. Not one, but several, links were missing from his chain of argument. My first objection, to the proposals now before us is that they are based on a theory of industrial action which is alien to the spirit of Australian legislation. We have, for years, been endeavouring to pass industrial legislation which will put an end, not only to the existence of industrial war, but to the possibility of its being brought about. To that end have been designed the Wages Board provisions of the Victorian Shops and Factories Acts, the Arbitration Acts of New South Wales and Western Australia, and, so far as it is applicable, the Arbitration Act, which we all took a , share in passing through this Parliament.

Mr Watson - Some a very big share.

Mr McCAY - I did the best I could to insure that that measure should be passed into law, and I am very glad that it has become law, with certain limitations.

Mr Hutchison - It is a very bad law at that.

Mr McCAY - I am wry sorry to hear honorable members of the Labour Party expressing their disapproval of Arbitration Acts.

Mr HUTCHISON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am expressing my disapproval of the Act as it stands. It needs a great deal of amendment.

Mr McCAY - Most Acts require a great deal of amendment, and none more than those that are passed in a hurry-skurry fashion. The debate upon the measure now before us has not yet occupied nine sittings of this House, and surely that is little enough time for such an important Bill to occupy the attention of honorable members.

Mr Watson - We have spent more time than that over it.

Mr McCAY - No, we have not. Of these eight and a half days, at least three were occupied in considering matters other than the union label provisions.

Mr Watson - The honorable and learned member's arithmetic is all wrong.

Mr McCAY - It is quite correct, and I challenge the honorable member for Bland to check it. I do not include the discussion upon the closure motions in my calculations, although the new Standing Orders had a direct bearing upon the efforts of the Government to secure the passing of these provisions. It is interesting to note that those honorable members who say that the closure had nothing to do with the question before the Chair are deliberately including the .time devoted to their discussion in. their estimates of the time spent in debating the Trade Marks Bill.

Mr Watson - Honorable members, in discussing the closure proposals, talked1 of nothing but the union label provisions.

Mr McCAY - Honorable members do not, apparently, realize the full force of their admission. As I have said, these proposals are alien to the spirit of Australian legislation in industrial matters. We have deliberately set out to put an end, noil only to industrial disputes, but to the possibility 6f such disputes. We have decreed that strikes and other forms of industrial warfare shall cease to exist, and 4/hat disputes between employers and employe's shall be settled in the calm and dispassionate atmosphere of a judicial or semi-judicial tribunal. That is the object to which our Acts in the past have been directed, and the object with which further legislation should be designed But now we have suddenly flung before us a proposal which is obviously, to say the least of it, questionable as regards its legality, and which, instead of disarming both parties, will place in their hands further weapons. In view of the amendments which the Attorney-General has promised to bring forward, I do not distinguish between the employer and the employe. It is. proposed to give to both sides opportunitiesto enforce their demands by means of strife. I say that anything which tends to increase the opportunities for quarrel, anything which tends to make more potent and effective, the weapons which each side car* use in a quarrel, is not what we have come to expect, or hope for. And when American precedents are referred to - as they have been continually by both sides - surely we ought to remember that the American method all along, has been not to trust! te* the Courts, but to arm the combatants and leave them to fight it out for themselves. They have, apparently, never had. the same confidence in their judicial tribunals that we, following the example of the old country have had. Are we, for this reason, to depart from the wholesome course which makes for peace, and to adopt measures which would involve an appeal in moments of heat to that tribunal which is the last that could be expected to arrive at a just settlement. As one who has. long, hoped to see Australia continue to work in the direction of making peace more certain, I am very sorry to seeproposals made, which, in my judgment, will make for war between class and class. Surely, irrespective of the cause we may espouse. Ave should all join in the desire to render any quarrels that may occur between employers and workmen as innocuous as possible to the general public, and to those who are parties to them. It should be our object to enact such mea- sures as will make for peaceful settlement, rather than such as will inevitably bring about industrial warfare. Honorable members who have spoken in advocacy of these proposals have stated that they will enable the public to know what goods are being made under fair conditions relating to hours of work, sanitation, wages, and kindred matters. They have urged that the public wants, and even if it does not consciously want, should have, an opportunity to know under what conditions goods are made, in order that they may by their purchases assist to. increase the consumption of goods made under fair conditions, and to limit the consumption of those made under unfair and sweating conditions. I suppose that is an object with which we can all agree. We wish to see production in this community carried on in such a way that all concerned are fairly and decently treated. It is not proposed to certify by means of the union label that goods are made under fair conditions, but only that they are made by an association, corporate or unincorporate, that has registered a workers' trade mark. More than that, the legal sin committed by a breach of the conditions sought to be imposed is not the making of the goods under unfair conditions, but the pretence that the goods are made by the members of a certain association when they have not been so made. It does not matter whether the association in question works under fair conditions or otherwise.

Mr Kennedy - There is nothing to prevent an association of sweaters from registering a workers' trade mark.

Mr McCAY - No; and the first thing that a sweater would do would be to register a workers' trade mark. He could use what words and symbols he liked, and he would not be compelled to fully describe the facts. He might say that the goods were made by the X.Y.Z. union, and that would convey no information to the public, except in cases where they were already acquainted with the nature of such a union. The public may be made aware of the existence of a mechanics' union, and, to a limited extent, of its object, which may be a perfectly legitimate one. The trade mark in such an instance may convey some indirect information, but that willnot be the most common case. What is the use of saying that individual workers will be treated on the same basis as great corporations or unions, because they will be able to register a workers' trade mark? If John Brown, working under proper conditions, registers his individual trade mark, what knowledge of John Brown will that convey to the public of Australia? How can they get any information as to the conditions under which his goods are made? But in the case of one of these great unions, that mark would become a lever, not merely for industrial purposes, but for other purposes which I need not mention, because they are uppermost in the minds of all honorable members. In other words, these proposals will only tend to give information to the public in cases where the unions are widespread and powerful. In the case of small unions or individuals, the workers' trade mark will be as useless as anything conceivably can be. Therefore, the proposal to put individuals, or small associations formed for the purposes of this Bill, upon the same basis as the great unions which have political aims is nothing but a pretence.

Mr Fisher - Why call it "pretence"?

Mr McCAY - It is a pretence to saythat the Government proposal will give the individual the same actual advantages - I admit that it will give him the same technical advantages - as it confers upon a large and powerful union. At first sight it may seem to be impartial in its application, but as a matter of fact it is not impartial in the way that it professes to be ; and, therefore, I think it is unwise to embody it in this measure. There is another point to which I desire briefly to refer. I pass away from what I have been saying, because I wish to bring my remarks to a conclusion as speedily as possible. I desire to emphasize a point which was made by the honorable member for Moira in his speech on Friday last. He pointed out that under this Bill unknown country workers, or even an association of countryworkers, engaged in exactly the same calling as those employed in the cities will be placed at a great disadvantage, inasmuch as their marks will convey no impression to the public mind, and therefore will be of no service.

Mr Hutchison - The honorable member for Moira made some fine points in his' other speech.

Mr McCAY - Even if that be so, second thoughts are best, as a wholesome proverb says, and I do not agree with the view that, in his speech on Friday last, the honorable member went back upon what lie had previously said.

Mr Kennedy - I think I shall have to repeat both speeches.

Mr McCAY - I think that the only course open to the honorable member is to point out how harmonious are the two utterances in question. It is said that these union labels are to be affixed to goods for the purpose of showing that they have been made under fair conditions. Surely the inevitable inference which the public will draw from that is that goods without that mark have not been produced under fair conditions. But such an inference will be absolutely incorrect, because wherever industries are carried on under Wages Boards, or under awards of the Arbitration Court, they will be working under similar conditions, irrespective of whether the goods are produced by union or non-union labour. I quite admit that the Wages Board system does not extend as far as it should do. That, however, is not my fault. T always assisted to extend it whenever I had the opportunity.

Mr Higgins - The honorable and learned member is amongst those who are opposed to Wages Boards.

Mr McCAY - This is an instance of " No case; abuse the plaintiff's attorney." I arn giving my reasons for opposing the Government proposal. My reasons may not be the same as those entertained by others who are adopting a similar course.

Mr Hutchison - The honorable and learned member is in favour of Wages Boards, but against their operation.

Mr McCAY - Under the Government proposal, wherever non-unionists engaged in an industry are working under an award of the Arbitration Court, an implied falsehood will be told every time the union label is not attached to their goods. I ask, " Are we to give legislative force to these grossly, unfair implications" ? There are plenty of factories in which employes are working, under conditions just as fair and righteous as those which obtain under Arbitration Court awards, or under the Wages Board system. Is it to be implied, with legislative indorsement, that these people are not working under fair conditions? The result of this legislation must inevitably be to force men - against their predilections - into unions for the sake of their bread and butter.

Mr Maloney - Were not the same arguments used in opposition to the Factories Act?

Mr McCAY - I do not recollect them being used.

Mr Mauger - Mr. Derhamused exactly the same arguments.

Mr McCAY - They were wrongly applied then, but Chey are rightly applied now. These clauses - whatever their form may be- inevitably make a distinction between unionists and non-unionists. They will undoubtedly form a powerful lever to force men into unions against their will. It is against this indirect compulsion that I raise my voice.

Mr Watson - In favour of the pirate.

Mr McCAY - The honorable member interjects that I am in favour of the pirate.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He has made that statement sufficiently often to convince even himself that it1 is true.

Mr Watson - It is a fact that cannot be made too well known to the outside public.

Mr McCAY - It is a pity that the statement is not accurate." a

Mr Watson - Is the honorable and learned member willing to insert any provision in the Bill to punish a pirate ?

Mr McCAY - I will answer the honorable member in as straight a manner as he has put the question to me. I am prepared to insert a provision to punish a pirate, but I will not consent to the insertion of anything which, while pretending to hit the pirate, hits the honest man, and which distinguishes between classes of workers.

Mr Watson - If the honorable and learned member will submit a proposal to punish the pirate, I will support it, and let the other thing go.

Mr McCAY - If the honorable member is prepared to strike at1 the root of the evil of which he complains - although I am of opinion that the whole proposal is unconstitutional - if he will insert a provision which will have the effect of punishing those who put upon goods am mark indicating that they have been made under fair conditions of labour, when, as a matter of fact, they have not been so produced, without distinguishing between unionists and non-unionists, I will support him.

Mr Watson - That is nothing but art evasion. It is not a reply to my question as to whether or not a pirate should be punished.

Mr McCAY - If effect were given to my suggestion, the pirate would be punished.

Mr Watson - The honorable and learned member would punish only one set of pirates.

Mr McCAY - These proposals, the honorable member says, are directed against those who do not work under fair conditions.

Mr Watson - I do not say that alone; I say that they are directed against piracy.

Mr McCAY - That is all that the honorable member has said up to the present time. All this talk about pirates - first creating an artificial and unfair right, and then declaring that we should punish those who interfere with that artificial right, calling them pirates - is absurd.

Mr Watson - The honorable and learned member is not prepared, as a lawyer, to say that the label cannot be used without any further right.

Mr McCAY - I think that, under existing laws, these labels can be used ; and, if so, why insert a special provision for that purpose in this measure? I will tell the honorable member exactly what I am prepared to do. I am willing to make it an offence for persons to allow any mark to be placed upon their goods indicating that fair conditions of labour were observed in their production when, as a matter of fact, they were not.

Mr Isaacs - How can that be proved?

Mr McCAY - How can we prove evasions of the Factories Act?

Mr Isaacs - Very simply.

Mr McCAY - I do not mean to suggest that we should merely insert the words "fair conditions." I mean to say that we should specifically provide that the goods should be made under proper conditions of labour as to hours and wages. It may be said that an evasion of the proposal made by myself would be more difficult to substantiate than an evasion of that submitted by the Attorney-General. I admit that. But my proposal possesses the advantage that it goes to the root of the matter, whereas those of the Attorney-General do not achieve the object which they are designed to accomplish. They do not guarantee the thing that they profess to guarantee. I am prepared to say that no person shall falsely apply to goods any mark indicating that they have been made under proper conditions when, as a matter of fact, they have not been so made.

Mr Webster - We have listened to the voice of the tempter before.

Mr McCAY - The honorable member did not listen. If the honorable member and his associates had listened, the leader of the Labour Party, and not the AttorneyGeneral, would have been introducing this proposal to-day.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Something more than listening is required. One needs to understand what one hears.

Mr McCAY - The real question at issue is, " Are people . to pretend that their goods are made under fair conditions of labour, when, as a' matter of fact, they are not?" So far as any alternative proposals to those of the Government are concerned, I am not wedded to the verbiage of any of them. But if what I have stated is the real question at issue - and I venture to think that it is - let us insert a provision which will hit at that mischief, instead of hitting at something which is not necessarily connected with the subject at all. It is because the proposals of the Government, while professing to secure one result in an impartial manner, neither procure that result, nor do what is done in an impartial manner, that I feel it my duty to vote against the second reading of this clause. If the second reading be carried, however, I am prepared to assist in so amending the proposals of the Govern ment that they may strike at the real mischief, and may not be capable of being put to all sorts of unjustifiable purposes - boycotts included. It is our duty as legislators not to assist in the establishment of boycotts, but rather to render boycotts unnecessary. If we do that, or even if we do our best to achieve that end, we shall have accomplished a great work. But if, instead of that, we create new possibilities of warfare within the industrial arena, instead of securing any benefit, or imagined benefit, to the workers of Australia, we shall inflict upon them one of the greatest injuries of which a Parliament is capable.

Mr. HIGGINS(Northern Melbourne).I can assure the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who has just taunted the Ministerialists with their silence, that we have refrained from speaking chiefly because of a desire to avoid assisting obstructionists. But now that we see light in the distance, now that the end of the debate is in sight, we shall be glad to contribute to the discussion anything of which time will permit.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Now that an arrangement has been made to close the debate within a given period, Ministerialists are going to consume all the time at our disposal.

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