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Thursday, 30 November 1905


Mr HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) - The honorable and learned member for Grampians has shown that, although there may be many shades of. opinion on this side of the Chamber, we are one in our opposition to the broad principle underlying these provisions.


Mr Watson - The question is, Are honorable members in favour of punishing pirates ?


Mr HENRY WILLIS - I am. I followed the address of the Attorney-General pretty closely, and made notes, so as to lose none of his points, of which there were two to which he gave especial prominence. According to him, the crux of the whole matter is : How shall we legislate against the pirate? Under the law as it stands, apparently, any organization may register a label, but cannot prevent the use of that label without its permission. There was no meed for the Attorney-General to elaborate the statement of fact that the label is not now used because it is of no value.


Mr Watson - It is used. Several unions have labels.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - I am aware that in Kalgoorlie - a very intelligent and enterprising community, but one far removed from other centres of civilization - the union label is in use, and the storekeepers there, who have not to fear the competition of similar tradesmen in Perth, encourage its use to secure the trade of the miners. Selfishness is at the bottom of the encouragement given to the system at Kalgoorlie, so that I do not think that what is done there should be advanced in support of the proposal to legalize the use of the union label. I wish to look at these proposals fairly, because, like other honorable members, I represent all classes of the community. I desire that the non-unionist shall not be hardly dealt with simply because he is not a member of a union.


Mr Frazer - The non-unionists could register a label.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - I am afraid the goods marked with the union label would be in demand, while those not so labelled would be tabooed by unionists. While we are prepared to deal with the complaint of the Attorney-General that labels may be pirated, I ask the leader of the Labour Party if he and his followers are in favour of inserting in the Bill provisions which will prevent non-unionists from being badly treated by unionists. The Attorney-General said that the legalization of the trade union label would promote the purchase and consumption of Australian goods, and in his peroration waxed warm in advocacy of the encouragement of Australian manufactures. But while we, on this side, wish to entourage local manufacture, we say that it is in the interest of the workers, both unionist and non-unionist, that there shall be competition. If the union label is to be used to bring about the exclusive consumption of Australian-made goods, it will put an end to that competition.


Mr Frazer - It is a species of protection.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - No doubt it can be so employed as to prevent the use of goods made abroad ; but I am- not afraid of what will happen if the unionist, who, as a rule, is a fair-minded man, is not coerced and led away by the firebrands.


Mr Poynton - Such as Mr. Walpole.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - Agitators of any kind are of very little use to the community, unless, perhaps, in causing people to think ; they are, however, prone to recommend force. The Attorney-General asked why the unionists should not be organized, but he had not a word! to say for the nonunionist, who, I am afraid, will_ suffer if the unionists are given, the right to register labels for use only on their own terms.


Mr Poynton - I have never known a concession to unionists which did not benefit non-unionists.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - The AttorneyGeneral told us that it was quite possible under the existing law for a union to register a label.


Mr Isaacs - No, not to register, but to adopt a label.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - He said that a union could adopt a label, but that as the label might be pirated, the proposed legislation is necessary. I see no reason whatever for objecting to the registration of union labels, provided that the registration will operate for the good of the general community, as well as of the workers. But what is the special object of the provision before us? Is it not designed to enable unionists to insist upon the use of the label by manufacturers, and to compel them to employ union workmen? Is it not intended, further, to enable unionists to expel non-unionists from employment, or compel them to join the union? The ultimate effect, will be that manufacturers would be prevented from employing any but union workmen, and the members of the unions would be precluded from purchasing any goods other than those manufactured by employers of union labour. I understand that this state of affairs exists at Kalgoorlie to-day. It seems to me that a manifest injustice would be inflicted upon non-unionists if they were subjected to coercion of the kind I have indicated. I am a thorough believer in the fullest liberty of action, and I think that a workman should be free to join a union or not, as he may think fit. We are told that non-unionists would still be free to refuse to join the union. That may be so, but they would have to face very serious consequences if they proved contumacious. Men might be compelled to join unions which partake of a political character, and might have to support candidates who hold views quite opposite to their own. The proposals now before us are distinctly of a class character, and are intended to be used for political purposes. The unions at present nominate candidates for Parliament, and actively organize in order to secure their election, and it is well known that unionists vote en bloc for their own nominees.


Mr Mauger - What nonsense ! There are more trade unionists in my . electorate than in any other in Victoria, and yet the labour candidate was not returned at the last election.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - If the honorable member is anything, he is a labour candidate. He votes in favour of all legislation approved of by the caucus, and although he did not receive the labour nomination at the last election, he will probably be. the approved candidate upon the next occasion. As a matter of fact, I think the honorable member ought to join the caucus and become a straight-out labour man, because he is acting in the same manner as if he had signed the labour pledge.. Under the proposed legislation; the use of union labels will be forced1 upon manufacturers.


Mr Tudor - Who- will force it upon them ?


Mr HENRY WILLIS - The unionists.. They will not purchase goods except they bear the union label.

Mir. Wilkinson. - If they are so few in* number as the honorable member' has represented, what would that matter?


Mr HENRY WILLIS - I contend that they are comparatively few in number at present, and that, owing to that fact,they are all the more anxious to acquire powers which will enable them to increase their membership. The object of labour leaders all over the world is to force men into the unions. Tom Mann has openly stated that the objects of the unions in England and upon the Continent is to obtain power to force non-unionists into their organizations, by intimidation and coercion. It is for such a purpose that it is proposed to use the union label. The unions are aiming at the achievement of the highest form of political power.


Mr Spence - How could the small minority achieve all these results?

Mr.HENRY WILLIS.- Every organization has to start with a small membership.


Mr Spence -The unions do not increase their membership by coercion.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - The unions are endeavouring to gain strength by coercive measures, but they cannot establish themselves upon a sound basis unless they rely solely upon moral suasion. Why should the union label provisions be required, except as a means of forcing men into the unions ?


Mr Ronald - We want to make it worth the while of the manufacturers to use the label.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - It will be worth the while of the manufacturer to use the label, because his existence without it will be almost unbearable. The manufacturers will not be permitted to employ any but unionists.


Mr Wilkinson - There are thousands of workmen in Australia who are in sympathy with unions, but cannot join them.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - I believe in unions, because I think that it is better for the men, for the employers, and for the whole community that the workmen should be organized ; but I do not believe in coercion. Tom Mann has stated that the labour organizations wish to compel men to join them, in order that they may achieve greater political power.


Mr Ronald - He has never used the word " compel."


Mr HENRY WILLIS - He has used & variety of expressions, which all convey the same idea. The Labour Party have decided to send a representative to Europe to attend the International Labour Con gress next year, so that the aspirations of the unions here may be brought into accord with those of the British and European organizations, which are in the direction I have indicated. Is it not obvious that it is intended to force men into trade unions? Is it not equally obvious that if all men belonged to those organizations, no particular advantage wouldaccrue to the employer who used a union label ?


Mr Ronald - We have put a label upon the individual, and it is only right that we should place a label upon his goods.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - Certainly not. Man is not a chattel. Another objection to this proposal is, that if it be adopted, a skilled workman who is not a member of a trade union will not be permitted to act as foreman upon any undertaking. Only the other day a gentleman died in Adelaide, who was quite as well able to take charge of a thousand men upon a work as most individuals are to control a dozen. I refer to the late Mr.Puddy. who built most of the railways in that State. He was particularly well qualified to handle men, but he wasnota unionist, and did not belong to a trade union. Yet, amongst the working classes he has been very highly respected during the past forty years. Under this Bill such an organizer would not be permitted to manage large undertakings. In olden times a foreman was expected to look after the interests of his employer more than of those who were subordinate to him. That, however, is not "the case here. The honorable and learned member for Angas dealt very fully and ably with the speech delivered by the Attorney-General, and I hope that the latter will read his address in Hansard.


Mr Isaacs - I heard the most of it, and I appreciate it very much.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - I merely desire to put in. a plea for the non-unionist. I say, in justice to those men who have conscientious scruples against joining a union, that this provision should be amended in thedirectionofallowing employers freedom to employ whomsoever they may please. I suggest that a workers' trade mark shall not be registered if a trade association prevents, or attempts to prevent, its members from exercising freedom of choice in the purchase of goods, either of union or non-union manufacture. I ask the Attorney- General if that is not a fair proviso to insert ? I am perfectly satisfied that if no coercion is exercised, the introduction of the union label will not have so bad an effect


Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Why does the honorable member want to worry himself about the unionists?


Mr HENRY WILLIS - Does the honorable member imagine that I am not concerned alike with the interests of unionists and non-unionists? Does he think that I come here simply for the purpose of talking? If I cannot accomplish some good for my race, I have no desire to occupy a seat in this House. I wish to see justice done all round. Therefore, I say that the unionist ought not to be intimidated by his union. Let us provide that he shall be allowed to spend his money wherever he may please. Let us insure that he shall obtain full value for his expenditure., If we do that, very little harm can result from the adoption of these proposals. It is not a good thing for the country to be dominated by a small committee of an organization. It is notorious all over the world that the ablest men seldom come fo the front. It is the " pushing " individual who gets there. The able, thoughtful, studious man, who sits back and thinks, is compelled to wait a long time for the call of " Friend, come up higher." Similarly, in the unions, we do not findthe ablest men on top, but the extremists. We have only to read the labour publicationsto see that.


Mr Ronald - We see it in Parliament.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - It is the same everywhere. I hold that legislation of the character proposed is destructive of business enterprise. The Attorney-General said that the capitalists are organized, and asked why the workers should not be organized. I do not object to the organization of artisans, but I am certainlyopposed to the capitalists being organized. The Attorney-General, however, put the matter fairly when he stated that their interests brought them together. They wish to gain something through the power of their capital, and they are organized to that extent. The worker is at liberty to join a trade union, and I do not object to every man joining an organization of that kind if he chooses to do so. But are we going to starve the women and children becausethe bread-winners cannot see that it is to their advantage to become members of a trade union? I ask the AttorneyGeneral to accept an amendment upon the lines I have suggested, so that the evil effects of this proposal may be removed.







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