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Thursday, 30 November 1905

Mr WATSON (Bland) - I do not wish to detain the Committee at any undue length, but, in view of some of the statements made within the last hour or so, it seems necessary to make a few remarks. I may say, first of all, in regard to the contention that sufficient time has not been allowed for the discussion of this proposal, that the honorable member for Gippsland seems to have forgotten that this measure has been under discussion for a considerable time. It is true that the Committee stage was not entered upon until about three weeks ago, but prior to that at least a week had been devoted to the debate on the motion for the second reading. Therefore the Bill has been under discussion for about four weeks. During the whole of that time, the debate has turned practically upon the union label provisions. When the second reading debate was proceeding nothing but the union label was talked about The leader of the Opposition spoke solely on that subject, and every other honorable member practically confined his remarks to that issue. When we reached the stage at which the closure resolutions were submitted, almost every remark made bv Opposition members was addressed to the question of the union label. From first to last we have debated these provisions, and no others - that is, if the term debate can be appropriately applied to a great deal of the talk that we have heard on. the subject.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Including the honorable member's talk.

Mr WATSON - I do not claim any greater merit than any other honorable members ; but whilst my remarks have been directed to elucidating the matter under discussion, it has been frankly admitted by some honorable members opposite that they were " stone-walling," even during last evening.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is entirely incorrect. I think that all the speeches delivered last night were closely devoted to the discussion of the question before the Chair.

Mr WATSON - The honorable member must be possessed of a high degree of temerity when he says that. Surely suffi cient time has been devoted to the discussion of this subject. The principle is a simple one, namely, whether trade unionists or any other workers shall be protected in the use and enjoyment of something which is their own property, or whether they shall be exposed to the roguery and thievery of pirates. I adopt the words of one of the Kentucky Judges, who stated that the object of the union label provisions was to protect the worker from piracy.. The honorable member for Gippsland traced a resemblance between this proposal, and preference to unionists. It seems to me that there is a material difference. The union label provisions do not pretend to give unionists a preference over others. It is left open to every worker - and so far as I am concerned, I am prepared to follow the spirit of the 'amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corio, and include employers and every one else - to take advantage of them. The principle involved in this matter is that of affording every man protection - no matter whether he be a unionist, a nonunionist, or an employer. I want to put all on the same footing before the law, and to give them equal protection against those who seek to rob them of the fruits of their labour. The statement of the honorable member for Gippsland that the Government of which I was the head, were prepared to deprive non-unionists of employment was an absolute misrepresentation. It was all of a piece with the kind of treatment to which we have been subjected in this Parliament.

Mr McLean - What would be the effect of turning non-unionists out of their employment, in order to make way for unionists ?

Mr WATSON - We did not propose to do that. The honorable member exhibits an ingenious mind when he resorts to arguments of that kind, and ignores the facts. What were the facts? We proposed to allow the Court to specify that preference should be given to unionists, if it saw fit to do so, after having heard the evidence, and having considered the surroundings of the case. If was purely a matter of authorizing a tribunal equal to the highest in the land, to say whether the circumstances would justify it in giving preference to unionists. It was not proposed to confine the work to unionists. We contended from first to last that the matter was one for the Court to decide.

To argue that, because we are prepared to allow a high tribunal to decide whether preference shall be granted, we are insisting upon preference is to grossly misrepresent the facts.

Mr McLean - Would the preference be of any advantage if it did not deprive non-unionists of their work, in order that it might be given to unionists ?

Mr WATSON - I say the Court must be the judge. I do not propose at this stage to argue whether or not preference is justifiable, because that would be foreign to this discussion. I am merely stating the facts. I contend that no proposal was made by the Government of which I was the head to prevent nonunionists from obtaining employment. I owe my place in this Parliament to the votes of non-unionists as much as, if not more than, to those of any other persons. I do not suppose that there are 1,000 unionists among the 20,000 electors in my constituency.

Mr McLean - But 1,000 canvassers can do a lot.

Mr WATSON - My opponents can always find canvassers as energetic as those who are working in ray interests. The honorable member for Gippsland, in common with a number of others, seems to confuse non-unionists with those who are antiunionists. In the great majority of cases, those who are outside the unions honestly sympathize with every legitimate effort made by unionists to advance their status, and to improve their material conditions. The great majority of non-unionists are fully sympathetic with the work of the unions, and I trust that honorable members will always draw a clear distinction between those who are merely non-unionists and those who, like the honorable member for Gippsland, are anti-unionists, and who manifest their ill-will on every occasion that presents itself. The honorable member was also good enough to say that throughout his political life he had been a consistent opponent of class legislation. I have no means of judging whether or not that statement is correct. Assuming it to be correct, however, a strange falling away from grace is shown on the present occasion. It has always been claimed by the antagonists of the Labour Party that they are opposing class interests.

Mr McLean - The earlier representatives of labour in Victoria were thorough, broad-minded Liberals.

Mr WATSON - I claim that we are broad-minded also, but we are not Liberals in the sense in- which the honorable member uses that term. There is strange irony in the situation, when those who have always protested against class legislation - although our efforts have been mainly directed to the repeal of class legislation, or to remedying the conditions that class legislation has brought into existence - are found to be banded together, and using 'every persuasion, and every artifice that parliamentary rules will permit, for the purpose of insisting upon a class distinction. The honorable member for Gippsland is prepared to devote the whole of the machinery of the State to the assistance and protection of employers who have trade marks. If a man forges or colourably imitates the trade mark of an ordinary manufacturer, the honorable member says that the wrong-doer must be punished ; but when another man, who is not an employer, arranges to put a certain mark on the goods produced bv his labour, the honorable member says : " We shall not give him any protection for his trade mark. He shall be exposed to all the wiles of the forger and the defrauder. The pirate shall have a free run, so far as the union label is concerned.''1 This is a fine example of the opposition which is being, directed by some honorable members,, to class legislation. This Parliament should extend equal privileges to all classes of the community. And I claim protection for those who are not fortunate enough to be employers, and who are condemned by their circumstances to remain wage-slaves. I ask that they shall receive the same protection at the hands of the Government acting for the people that is extended freely to-day without let or hindrance, and without objection so far as we are concerned, to every manufacturer or trader who cares to take' advantage of it.

Mr McLean - Would the goods to which union labels are affixed be the property of the unions?

Mr WATSON - The honorable member has referred to an argument that has been abandoned by all his friends, because it has been discovered that the great English Act upon which they were relying contains provisions which depart from the principle of insisting that only the owner of the goods shall be allowed to apply a trade mark. That has been abandoned.

Mr Lonsdale - It has not been abandoned.

Mr WATSON - I know that the honorable member is antedeluvian in his ideas, but all those honorable members who first advanced that theory have since abandoned it. Thev have admitted that the important exception provided for in the English Act, with regard to the ownership or proprietorship of the goods to which the trade mark is to be applied, compels them to abandon their contention that the goods must belong to the person who owns the trade mark.

Mr Glynn - I stated during the secondreading debate that I thought that the English decisions were in favour of the contention which the honorable member says has been abandoned.

Mr WATSON - Those decisions have been overruled by the last English Act - Mr. Moulton'sBill, upon which' the honorable and learned member set so much store until he found that it was operating against him-

Mr Glynn - That is not correct.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What does the honorable member care whether it is correct 01 not?

Mr WATSON - The honorable member for Parramatta should be the last to insinuate anything of that kind. He has been one of the most unfair opponents of the Bill.

Mr Lonsdale - The Honorable member knows that he was unfair.

Mr WATSON - I take serious exception to the remark of the honorable member, and I ask that it be withdrawn.

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