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Wednesday, 1 September 1920

Mr GREGORY (Dampier) .- I would accept the arguments advanced by the Minister (Mr. Groom) if I felt satisfied that the opinion he has quoted was sound. The new clause which I have proposed provides that the rules of an organization shall not permit its members to do certain things. The principal Act has been in force for many years, and I. would point out- that under paragraph d of section 60 it is declared that -

If it appears to the Court, on the application of any organization or person interested or of the Registrar -

(d)   That the rules of a registered organization or their administration do not provide reasonable facilities for the admission of new members or impose unreasonable conditions upon the continuance of their membership or are in any way tyrannical or oppressive, the registration of that organization can be cancelled. If we can control the rules of an organization in that way, surely it is constitutional to control the rules of an organization in the somewhat similar direction proposed by me.

Mr Ryan - It is handy sometimes to declare an amendment to be out of order. It avoids more difficult situations.

Mr GREGORY - Yes. I want now to go further. We have had the opinion of Sir Robert Garran that this proposed new clause is unconstitutional; but the present Chief Justice, before he was elevated to the Bench, gave the opinion that such, a clause as this could be constitutionally enacted by the Federal Parliament. That being so, the Minister and I, so far as the question of constitutionality is concerned, are on even ground. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) dealt very unfairly with, this proposal. It was asserted last night that T had not put it fairly to the Committee. I explained,' without any hesitation whatever, that the Australian Workers Union had opposed an application to make a rule of this kind part of the award of the Court. The practice had been in force until 1918, when an application by the Pastoralists Association that it should be made a part of the award was refused by the Court. The organization then brought in the rules to which I and others on this side are objecting. I said last night that I thought that such a provision as this would be in the interests of the men themselves. Having regard to the enormous area covered by the pastoral industry, surely it would be in ,the interests of the men themselves to enable them to make arrangements that pens should be available for them at the different sheds. I cannot understand why men like the honorable member for Gwydir would go back to a station where prevailed conditions such as those to which he referred. Why does not the Australian Workers Union say that suchandsuch a station offers such abominable conditions that its members shall not shear there.

Mr Cunningham - The idea of not "signing on " is that the men shall be able to go to a station and see for themselves what the conditions are.

Mr GREGORY - That is rubbish. I am satisfied that the honorable member knows ten times more than I do of these agreements, since he has been associated with them for a number of years, and is quite aware of the reasons which actuate the union. He thoroughly understands the position, whereas I do not; but I do know that clause 33 of the shearers' agreement reads -

If the employer supply rations and shearers' requisites he will post in a conspicuous place his price-list thereof, and the price to be charged (except for combs and cutters, and for meat) will not exceed the cost price with 10 per cent, and carriage added.

Mr Lavelle - What is the cost price?

Mr GREGORY - The employer would have to produce his invoices. Clause 33 of the shearers' agreement provides further that -

The price to be charged for meat will not in any case exceed the wholesale price at the nearest township.

Mr Cunningham - That provision was only made in the last award. It is not in the Queensland award. I was referring to the position in 1915.

Mr GREGORY - And that was quite unfair to the Committee. I was dealing with later conditions. There is not the slightest doubt that the organization takes very good care that these matters shall be placed upon an equitable basis. We are all anxious that they should be. When men go into the back country, it is essential that there should be an organization to protect their interests. Neither the pastoralists, the cane-growers, nor any body of employers desire to deal with individuals. They prefer to deal with an organization knowing that in that way more satisfactory conditions can be secured, as long as the members of the organization will comply with the awards. It must be heart breaking, however, for an employer who is prepared to comply with all the conditions of the award to be told at the last moment by a number of shearers, " We will not start work unless you will give us something for which the award does not provide." I am sure that the Opposition does not desire anything of the kind. A provision such as that which I have asked the Committee to accept would enable the employers, whether sheep-owners or contractors, to make arrangements in advance for shearing. A contractor would, be able to get together a body of men, take them from station to station, and provide them with work practically throughout the year. In the Kimberleys, shearing operations start in March, so that a contractor who could make an agreement with his men beforehand could start with them there, and gradually work down, finishing at the end of October, or early in November, in the south-western portion of the State. we prevent the making of agreements in advance, we shall increase the difficulties in the way of not only the pastoralists, but the cane-growers. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will adopt the proposed new clause. It is not fair that threats should be made as to what may happen if the clause is agreed to. Surely every organization, whether it be an organization of pastoralists or of workers, is prepared to abide by the law.

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