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Thursday, 12 August 1920

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - I take it that the Government are in earnest in introducing this Bill; if they are not, all the time spent upon it has been cruelly wasted. I do not desire to be charged with, reiterating arguments used by members on this side, but I am determined that nothing shall be done in the direction proposed, without expressing my opinion and giving my reasons for opposing the Bill as it stands. The Prime Minister recognises that unless the Bill is made acceptable to the working section of the community it will prove inoperative and useless;, but as to the weight which the right honorable gentleman attaches to that fact I am not certain. This Bill was introduced because of the delay in the Arbitration Court, and in the Court itself there 'are difficulties in the way of proving what is an "industry," just as there will be a difficulty under this Bill of proving what is an " industrial organization." The Prime Minister "gave the show away" when he claimed that the so-called trade union at Kalgoorlie is bond fide; hut all that he proved was that it is an industrial organization which may come before the Court and which may destroy what I call a bond fide organization. I ask the Prime Minister, or any one who has been concerned in cases before the Arbitration Court, what chance have we of industrial peace when there may be two organizations both claiming the right to appear in Court on behalf of a particular industry, while both hold distinctly different opinions as to why they come into Court ? The National Labour organization at Kalgoorlie was brought into existence by men opposed to the Australian Workers Union.

Mr Hughes - Do you call the Coal and Shale Miners organization a registered organization ? Do you wish to prevent those miners ' coming before the tribunal ?

Mr MATHEWS - I am not dealing with that question now; but I admit there is a difficulty. There are unions which are not registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and there are bond fide unions which are not affiliated with Trades Hall Councils; and unless we define in this Bill what is an "industrial organization," and provide that only those organizations which are really the accepted power of' the majority of the workers in any industry shall be recognised, this Bill will be useless. If there are to be two organizations both claiming to represent the same set of workers any effort at settlement will be futile, especially if the strength of the unions be anything like equal. T am not a lawyer, but 1 suppose that even through the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of Opposition (Mr. Tudor), the proverbial "coach and four might be driven"; at any rate, what the honorable member proposes is that a bond fide association shall be one recognised by the Trades Hall Council in the district or State. Under the Bill a bond fide union, however, in any one of the States, whether or not it be affiliated with the Trades Hall Council, will be recognised. There are unions in Victoria not affiliated with the Trades Hall Council, but they are recognised by that Council as bond fide industrial unions; so that there will be no difficulty so far as the Trades Hall Councils are concerned. In my opinion, the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition would meet the case, but the Prime Minister will not accept it, saying that he will relegate to no individual or outside body the right co say which is a bona fide industrial organization. Unless the right honorable gentleman does so, however, this Bill will prove futile.

Mr Gregory - No.

Mr MATHEWS - I can hardly expect the honorable member to agree with me; if he did he would be "scabbing" on his own union, and I am not asking him to do that. I have no more respect for a man who scabs on a union on the other side than I have for a man who scabs on my own union.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What organization does the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) belong to?

Mr MATHEWS - The conservative organization of Australasia. As I say, the Bill will be useless unless we deal with what I call the bond fide industrial organizations in Australia. It is those organizations which are the cause of the difficulty, and not the organizations fostered and financed by the Employers Federation, and unless we can do something in the direction I have indicated the time spent in discussing this measure will have been wasted.

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