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Wednesday, 11 August 1920


Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - This amendment is in a very different category from the previous one, which merely set out in words what was already covered by the scope of the definition. I took no exception to the other amendment, because the honorable member desired it to be inserted as a sort of declaration of the intention of the Legislature. Now the honorable member is proposing an amendment that no organization of employees shall come under the Bill except those organizations which are recognised by the Trades Council in a particular district or State- I ask the honorable member to realize how great is the departure he proposes from the sound principles which we have followed from the beginning of our arbitration legislation. The original Arbitration Acb in 1904 was introduced by Mr. Deakin. But for the most part the existing arbitration law has been framed by the various Labour Governments. It may be said to be non-party, but if any party more than another has moulded the Arbitration Act it has been the Labour party. The Act lays down in clear terms what for oyer ten years

Labour regarded as a sufficient guarantee, and what has always proved a- sufficient guarantee, for the purpose of its organization. Section 4 of the Arbitration Act provides - " Employee " means any employee in any industry, and includes any person whose usual occupation is that of employee in any industry.

And section 55 provides for the registration of -

Any association of not less than one hundred employees in or in connexion with any industry, together with such other persons, whether employees in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.

I remember moving that amendment in order to meet an objection which had been taken on account of the officers of a union not being employed in the industry. Neither the employer nor the employee has the right to say what is an organization, but if the amendment is carried the Trades Halls of the different States will have the right to say what is an organization. Such an extraordinary state of affairs would be repugnant to all sense of justice. It would undermine the firm basis upon which our jurisprudence rests, namely, UpOn laws made by a Legislature or decisions given under such laws by Courts of law, and set up a new and irresponsible body whose personnel and opinion fluctuate, is liable to bias and is animated by prejudice, and may at any moment be turned against one section of my friends opposite. What is happening in the industrial movement is perfectly well known. There is a struggle now going on between two sections for mastery; one section declaring quite definitely and without hesitation that the way to economic salvation is by direct action and communal ownership of all the means of production and distribution on the lines followed in Soviet Russia, and the other section taking a very different view and saying, "We believe in evolutionary progress" - if you like to call it Socialism you can, but it does not matter - "we believe in going step by step and achieving reform by constitutional means." There is a fundamental difference between these two sections, and if there is not war to the death between them at this moment that is only because, for the moment, they have become united in an attack upon, or defence of, something else. If any one can tell me which of these two sections will be on top in the Trades Hall in Sydney or in the Trades Hall in Melbourne in two years' time, I shall be glad to Lear it. Honorable members know perfectly well how at industrial and political conferences each side strives to get its nominees in a majority, because it is the majority which determines the policy of the industrial and political movement for the year. Let us apply what I have said. Which is going to win out,the One Big Union or the Australian Workers Union ?


Mr Blakeley - The Australian Workers Union; it is the best.


Mr HUGHES - It may not win, and if the One Big "Union succeeds, seven out of every ten unions will be black-listed.


Mr Brennan - How does the right honorable gentleman propose to have employees represented under this Bill ?


Mr HUGHES - Just as they are represented in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I propose that an organization shall be defined by the Legislature, not by an outside body. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) has mentioned a union. He probably refers to the Goldfields Union, which I claim is just as bond fide an organization as is any other union. At Broken Hill there is a struggle proceeding as to who is on top. Which section is on top I do not know; but we can be quite sure of this, that it will say that the other section is no good. In this House we represent the whole of the people. Therefore, let us say what is an' organization. If the amendment is defeated, as I hope it will be, an organization will be any association of not less than one hundred employees in or in connexion with any industry, together with such other persons, whether employed in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.


Mr Charlton - That is not in the Bill.


Mr HUGHES - I was under the impression that it was, and I am prepared to remedy the omission. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that an association is any trade or other union or branch of any union, or any association or body composed of or representative of employers or employees, or for furthering or protecting the interests of employers or employees.


Mr Brennan - That definition is not included in the Bill.


Mr HUGHES -I was under the impression thatthis definition had been included. I am quite willing to include all the definitions contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. My desire is to widen this legislation as much as possible. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) may say that the Bill as it stands will not safeguard the unions; but the best answer I can give is to point to the fact that although this law has been on the statute-book for sixteen years, for all practical purposes there have been no associations registered that were not bond-fide unions in the ordinary acceptation of the term, with the exception of the bank officials, the Actors Federation, and the Australian Insurance Staffs Federation. I am sure my friends opposite will admit that that is not a very serious inroad on unionism, and I understand that the Actors Federation has since affiliated with a Trades Hall and been recognised by it. I am as anxious as honorable members are to see that unionism is recognized under this Bill. If labour was not organized there would be no disputes. It is because labour is organized that it can dispute ; and I hope that it will always be organized whether this Bill is passed or not. But no step has been taken to recognise labour more effectively than does this Bill, which gives it legal status ; and, speaking for myself only, if the experience of the operation of the measure shows that these labour bodies can be intrusted with any definite task, and their powers widened in order that they may carry it out, I shall be in favour of giving them all the authority necessary. As this Bill distinctly recognises unionism, and because for the first time it gives it legal status, and confers on it certain statutory duties and powers, I hope it will be carried.







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