Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 30 November 1905


The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member doubtless refers to standing order 268, and I am of opinion that the honorable member for Corangamite is not contravening that standing order by the quotations he is making in reference to the matter before the Committee.


Mr WILSON - This is the opinion of the Federated Employers of South Australia on this question: -

Meeting of this Council held to-day, unanimous support acceded Central Council in opposing Trade Marks Bill.

Though the Trade Marks Bill is referred to, their objection is really to the union label clauses embodied in that Bill by the present Government at the instigation of honorable members in the Labour comer, who so entirely control them. Feeling on the subject is also strong in Tasmania, where the following resolution was passed by the Launceston Chamber of Commerce : -

Executive committee of chamber, after careful perusual of Attorney-General's .amendments, and the remarks thereon, passed following resolution : - " That we confirm the resolution of the chamber of the 8th ult., and equally condemn the amendments as not- in any way removing objectionable f eatures of the Bill.

This question is really the great question' of preference to unionists, which was threshed out last session when we were considering the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. According to Coghlan, there are 150,000 unionists in Australia, and by means of these provisions they are en- deavouring to secure preference over 1,102,000 adult males in this Commonwealth. At page 61 of Hansard for this session, it will be found that the Prime Minister, at the beginning of this session, in speaking to the Address-in-Reply, told the right honorable member for East Sydney that he had parted with his_ opportunity to put this great question of preference to unionists before the country in a concrete form. On page 62, he repeated the statement in another form. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has now an. opportunity of putting the issue before the people in a concrete form, because the union label embodies the principle of preference to unionists in a worse shape than has ever been submitted to the country. It is only because the AttorneyGeneral wishes to placate the corner party that these clauses have been accepted by the Ministry. If we are to judge by the opinions which have been expressed, I should say that there is a very narrow majority here in favour of their enactment. If the Prime Minister is true to the words which he spoke on the Address-in-Reply, he will seek a dissolution of the House, and take the verdict of the people. I can assure him that the members of the Opposition will be ready to respond to a challenge in that direction. I am satisfied that there is a strong feeling throughout the country districts in Victoria, and, I believe, throughout the rest of Australia, against the insertion of these clauses in the Bill. Practically, the only desire of the members of the Labour Party in seeking the enactment of this class legislation, is not to suppress piracy or sweating, but to increase the membership of their unions for political purposes. They intend to use the union label as a means of boycotting manufacturers and compelling workmen to join the unions. In supporting the union label, the Attorney-General is preparing a sword which will eventually be the means of politically slaying himself. The union, label can be of no value to the Labour Party unless it is to be used as a means of boycotting. According to Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, the word " boycott " means "to combine against a landlord, tradesman, employer, or other person; to withhold social or business relations from him, or to deter others from holding such relations." It has been urged by honorable members that some individuals themselves apply the boycott ; but according to this definition it can only be applied by an association of persons. It is desired to put the power of the boycott into the hands of the unions. The honorable member for Bland has gloried in the fact that he has indulged in boycotting, and he has admitted that employers have the right to do so. If it were not for the power which the union label will give the unions, they would not have asked their chief assistant, the AttorneyGeneral, to bring forward these clauses and to after them so many times. The word " boycott " as a noun is defined in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary to mean " social and business interdiction for the purpose of coercion." So that these clauses are designed to introduce not only a system of boycotting, but a system of coercion between employers and employes, between tradesmen and their customers. In my opinion,, the Attorney-General and his colleagues should have left the positions which they now occupy rather than have been drawn by any means into bringing forward such proposals. The honorable and learned gentleman must know, from what he has read on the subject, .that in America the labels have been used almost entirely for the purpose of boycotting tradesmen who would, not submit to the dictation of unionists.


Mr Spence - Can the honorable member give us any evidence that they have been so used? '


Mr WILSON - Have we not the evidence of the honorable member for Bland that in Australia he has assisted in boycotting?


Mr Isaacs - The honorable member knows that in America employers have black-listed employes in regard to their businesses. Would he. abolish the businesses ?


Mr WILSON - I would abolish the black-listing. I do not glorify black-listing any more than I glorify boycotting. I detest both.


Mr Hutchison - The honorable member boycotts every tradesman with whom he does not deal.


Mr WILSON - I have already shown that a boycott is a combination of persons for coercive purposes. One man cannot boycott another. In Palgrave's Dictionary of Political Economy, it is pointed out that-

A boycotted person is cut off from all intercourse with his neighbours; nobody is allowed to take his land, to work for him, to supply him with goods, or to help or assist him in any way.

Should we allow ourselves to be induced by the Ministry or any other section of the House to introduce this system into Australia? It is generally acknowledged that practically the object of the unions in seeking to legalize the union label is to apply this pernicious system to all the relations existing between employers and employes in the Commonwealth. No one takes exception to voluntary trade unionism, but the coercive unionists who recognise as their leader the honorable member for Bland are aiming at the introduction of such a system as that which exists in connexion with the Flint Glass Workers' Union of America.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]


Mr WILSON - Palgrave points out that this union, by means of the union label, is endeavouring to cause all workmen to be forced into the unions -

Disturbed by the competition of what the union claims are half -trained apprentices, non-union men, and immigrants, the umm refuses to work with any non-union men or boys, and refuses toadmit to its membership any foreigner, save on payment of $50 {£10).

Over and over again we have unionists in Australia refusing to work with half-trained apprentices; and in wool-sheds and other places we have had unionists refusing absolutely to work with non-unionists.


Mr Kennedy - We have had union doctors refusing to work with non-union doctors.


Mr WILSON - I thank the honorable member for the interjection, which is perfectly true, and quite pertinent to the issue. I am not suggesting that the evil has been or is only on the one side. The AttorneyGeneral knows that it is customary for the members of the learned profession to which he belongs not to work with those who are outside the union. But the custom obtaining throughout the learned professions is due to reasons quite different from those which actuate members of coercive trade unions intaking the course I have indicated. The effect of these clauses will be to introduce into Australia the system that now obtains in the United States. During the grea't shearing strike of a few years ago, one of the chief points at issue was as to whether or not non-unionists should be allowed to work side by side with unionists.


Mr Kennedy - That was not the causeof the shearer's call-out.


Mr WILSON - Has it not been one of the burning questions at issue ? The AttorneyGeneral has argued that the boycott to which reference has been made is a matter that affects only the United States; but I am showing that the system is not unknown in Australia. Another point having an important bearing on this question is that the workers'1 label clauses are designed,.not to indicate the sweater, but chiefly to force all workmen throughout Australia into unions. Dealing with the position in the United States, Palgrave points out that -

When the non-union man, denominated a " scab " by the union, tries to take the place of strikers, violence is often visited upon him by the union, as some years ago in England ; but the majority of the unions do not countenance violence.

I know that the majority of trade unionists do not countenance violence, but this is an indication of the treatment which will be meted out to those who object to the union label by the coercive unions which .are represented chiefly, if not wholly, by honorable members in the Ministerial corner. The members of labour organizations and the general public will be urged to buy no goods except those -to which the union label is attached. All other goods will be boycotted, and as it will not be possible for manufacturers to use the union label unless the whole of the workmanship in their wares is that of unionists, the logical result will be that none but unionists will be able to get employment. What is aimed at is to force all the labour of the community into unions, and I do not envy the name which the Attorney-General will leave to posterity if he is successful in getting these clauses placed on the statutebook. The secretary to the American Federation of Labour reported, at the Convention of 1896, that a large -number of trades, of which he read a list, had adopted the union label ; and spoke of the growth of the label as sure. He added, "It is the backbone of some of our unions." Most of the unions in Australia are at the present time without a backbone, and that, I suppose, is why they are so anxious to adopt what is said to be the backbone of the American unions. As honorable members know, the union label was used in the first instance to distinguish cigars made by white labour from those made by Chinese labour. If the union label is adopted in the cigar trade of Australia, and there are many union propagandists as energetic as is the honorable member for D ar I. ing, its use will be pushed to an extreme, which will mean that the label cannot be attached to cigars unless none but unionists have been employed in connexion with their manufacture in all its processes. As in this country the tobacco leaf from which the local cigars are made is grown chiefly by Chinamen, that, I think, will present a difficulty in the way of applying the label to cigars made from local leaf. If the shoemakers adopt a label, and the principle is again pushed to an extreme in their business, it will be necessary not only that the boots and shoes to which the label is applied shall have been made by unionists, but that the leather shall have been prepared by unionist tanners, and the hide flayed by unionist butchers. Perhaps they may even go so far as to require that only the hides of cattle reared on properties worked by union labour shall be used. The honorable member for Yarra has shown me the design of the label u.sed by the Hatters Union of America. Hats are made of various materials. I do not think that many straw hats are made in Australia, but many of the hats worn here are manufactured from rabbits' fur.


The CHAIRMAN - I do not think that the honorable .member is in order in going into the details of manufacture.


Mr WILSON - This is a most important matter.


The CHAIRMAN - The question is one of relevancy. I do not think that the honorable gentleman should deal in full with the details of manufacture in all the Jong list of trades to which a union label might be applied.


Mr WILSON - In Australia scarcely any trades have adopted the union label.


Mr Watson - Quite a number of them are using it.


Mr WILSON - If, however, the stamp of legality is given to the label it will be extended to the whole of the trades :n the Commonwealth. In America label leagues are being established in many places. They are simply attempting to coerce the people into using no goods but such as are marked with the union label. We shall soon have the same sort of thing prevailing in Australia.


Mr Tudor - There is nothing to prevent a trade union, using a label to-day.


Mr WILSON - I will deal with thai point.


The CHAIRMAN - The question of registration does not arise in connexion with the clause we are discussing.


Mr Kelly - I suggest that as the AttorneyGeneral has referred at length to the question of registration the honorable member for Corangamite should be permitted to refer to it.


Mr Watson - The Attorney-General only alluded to it incidentally.


Mr Kelly - The incidental reference extended over a considerable time.


The CHAIRMAN - Even if the honorable member for Wentworth were correct - and I do not think that he is - the fact that one honorable member has transgressed would not warrant me in allowing another honorable member to do the same when my attention has been called to the matter.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understood that there was to be a general debate. The Attorney-General was allowed throughout his speech to transgress the rule just laid down.


The CHAIRMAN - I hope the honorable member will not say that.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The AttorneyGeneral discussed every phase of the question - boycotting, the constitutional aspect, registration, the American cases, and1 everything else.


The CHAIRMAN - I cannot allow the honorable member to dispute my ruling. My recollection is that the AttorneyGeneral referred only incidentally to the question of registration, and I have asked the honorable member for Corangamite to refrain from discussing that matter in detail.


Mr McCay - I point out that the clause which we are now discussing refers to a mark registered by any " individual Australian worker." Three lines lower down there is also a reference to registration.


The CHAIRMAN - I do not think that that has anything to do with it. The mere mention of the word does not permit a debate to take place at this stage upon a subsequent clause. I am sorry to intervene, but I do not think that the honorable member for Corangamite can complain that latitude has not been given to him.


Mr WILSON - I think the question is of such grave importance that it should be fully discussed. It has so many ramifications that its branches can hardly be dealt with succinctly. Allegations have been made that Australian manufacturers have been in the habit of stating that goods were modeby union labour when, as a matter of fact, they have been made by non-union workmen. The Chambers of Commerce state that those allegations are without foundation.


Mr Watson - If there are no piracies, there will be no punishment.


Mr WILSON - It is undesirable that this class of legislation should be placed on the statute-book in the early history of Federation. Its tendency is to create bitterness between employers and their workmen.Manufacturers have good ground for fearing that the clauses will be used for boycotting purposes. A letter which has been sent to me points out that the honorable member for Bland admitted that they would be used as a weapon for boycotting.


Mr Watson - What lie is this?


Mr WILSON - It is not a lie at all.


Mr Watson - It is a lie !


Mr Johnson - Is the honorable member for Bland in order in stating what the honorable member for Corangamite said was a lie?


Mr Watson - I did not accuse the honorable member of lying, but I said that the statement in the letter to which he alluded was a lie.


The CHAIRMAN - I did not understand the honorable member for Bland to say that anything stated by the honorable member for Corangamite was a lie ; but the honorable member is quite within his rights in stigmatizing any untrue statement made by some person not a member of this House in a letter as a fie. I suggest to the honorable member for Corangamite that he should not quote a statement which may be considered to be offensive by an honorable member.


Mr Watson - The statement in this letter that I have said that these clauses would be used as a weapon for boycotting is an absolute lie.


The CHAIRMAN - Under these circumstances, I trust that the honorable member for Corangamite will withdraw the statement.


Mr WILSON - Certainly ; I have no wish to make any statement concerning the honorable member for Bland to which he takes exception. I have here a statement written by a baker, which shows the difficulty of applying the union label to bread-. How is a housewife to distinguish between bread which is marked with agenuine union label and bread which is fradulently marked? I am of opinion that the union label will have a serious effect upon local industries. No protectionist ought to vote for such provisions, and most of the manufacturers who are interested in the protected industries are crying out against them. Their effect will be to take the ownership and directorship of the industry out of the hands of the men who have put their brains and capital into it, and place them in the hands of the caucus and the Trades Hall. Furthermore, the union label will be no guarantee of the quality of goods. . In fact, goods tearing a fraudulent label might actually be better in quality than goods which bore the genuine union label. This is a form of class legislation which is not intended to benefit the mass of the people of Australia. It would be no guarantee that proper wages were paid to the workmen who had manufactured an article. The greater part of the manufactures of Australia are made in States where there is stringent factory legislation, and where, consequently, there is no need for this new system of coercion.


The CHAIRMAN - I think I have heard this argument, used pretty frequently before.


Mr Watson - It is nothing but tedious repetition. It is a lot of "tommy-rot."


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If it is tedious repetition, why was the Attorney-General permitted to use the same arguments?


Mr Kelly - Is the leader of the Labour Party in order in referring to the excellent speech of the honorable member for Corangamite as " tommy-rot " ? It is an insult not only to the honorable member, but to the Committee.


The CHAIRMAN - I would point out to the honorable member for Wentworth that on rising to a point of order he should not express an opinion as to the remark of which he complains. It is quite sufficient for him to state his point of order. I ask the honorable member for Bland to withdraw the statement which is considered to be offensive.


Mr Watson - Will the honorable member for Wentworth repeat what I said that was offensive to him ?


Mr Kelly - The remark of which I complain was made concerning the speech of the honorable member for Corangamite.


Mr WILSON - I ask the honorable member for Bland to withdraw "tommy rot."


Mr Watson - Certainly, I do.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The AttorneyGeneral used numbers of arguments which had been previously used.


The CHAIRMAN - With regard to the interjection of the deputy leader of the Opposition, I should like to say that the Attorney-General opened the debate on this question, and consequently cannot be said to have used arguments previously used in the same debate.


Mr WILSON - Another point is that without these clauses it is quite competent for any Trade union to use a mark. Common law rights pertain to any union that chooses to do so. It is therefore unnecessary for us to pass these clauses. Their legality as part of this Bill has been challenged, and it is exceedingly probable that: the question will be argued later on before the High Court. Their adoption simply means that the Commonwealth will become a recruiting agent for trade unions who want to increase their political strength and get completely in their hands the reins of industry - to drive the business coach. When that happens, the power thus conferred upon the unions will convert them into a veritable Juggernaut car, crushing the industries of Australia to dust.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).As we have been sitting for about thirteen hours, will the Attorney-General tell us what the intentions of the Government are?


Mr Isaacs - If we can have an assurance from the honorable member that this debate will finish any time to-day (Friday), there is no objection to adjourn now. We require to finish the Bill.







Suggest corrections