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Tuesday, 31 August 1920

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister for Works and Railways) .- This clause has been proposed because of the practical working of the section in the original Act, which deals with an organization that " orders " its members to refuse to offer or accept employment. In any prosecution that takes place it has to be definitely proved that an organization gave such an order. I remind the Committee that at the instigation of honorable members opposite an amendment has been proposed providing that it is an offence for an employer to merely threaten to do a certain thing, and the clause now before us is an extension of somewhat the same principle. An organization which " encourages, advises, or incites " commits an offence just as much as an organization which " orders " its members to refuse to offer or accept work.

Mr Richard Foster - Does this clause apply to persons?

Mr GROOM - No, it deals only with organizations.

Mr Richard Foster - Why does it not apply to ^persons ?

Mr GROOM - We have dealt with persons in previous clauses. The section we are amending deals only with organizations qua organizations. It provides that if an organization orders its members to refuse to accept or offer employment it commits an offence. In practice it has been found difficult to prove that an organization ordered a certain course of action, but organizations which incite and encourage the doing of certain things are just as much responsible for creating industrial turmoil ns is an organization which actually orders the doing of those things. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has said that the officers will become liable. This does not make them liable. When an organization is registered its rules provide for a Committee of Management, and anything done by the committee should be binding on the organization. Provision is also made for the appointment of officers. An organization will be liable if an officer or officers of the Committee of Management has or have ordered, encouraged, advised, or incited members of the organization to refuse to offer or accept employment, unless the Court is satisfied that the Committee of Management was not cognisant of such actions by the officers. In short, if an officer is engaged in agitating, ordering, encouraging, or advising members to go on strike, and the Committee of Management knows what he is doing, and is taking no steps to restrain him, the organization is held responsible. That is reasonable. Otherwise, a Committee of Management might have paid officers all over the country engaged in inciting the men to a certain course of action, 'but disclaim responsibility by saying " These things were' done by our officers." If the committee were cognisant of the doing of those things, the organization should be held liable. An officer is the agent of, and is responsible to, the organization, which, therefore, is made liable for acts done with the cognisance of its managing body. The onus is thrown on the Committee of Management to show that they were not aware of the action of their officers. An organization might be charged with having incited certain members to refuse employment. If it were proved that the person who did the act was an officer of the organization, and that be did the acts alleged, the onus would then be on the Committee of Management to satisfy the Court that they were not cognisant of what the man had been doing.

Mr Maxwell - Prima fade, the Committee of Management is liable for the acts of its officers, but it is open to them to show that they were not aware of those acts.

Mr GROOM - Yes. The Committee of Management ought to be cognisant of what their officers are doing, and if an officer is deliberately carrying out a policy contrary to that of the committee, they should deal with him.

Mr Maxwell - But if he is doing these things privately, without the cognisance of the committee?

Mr GROOM - The committee can establish that fact in Court.

Mr West - This makes the whole committee responsible for the actions of one man.

Mr GROOM - Certainly. The organization, through the committee, must be answerable for the actions of its officers of which they are cognisant.

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