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Thursday, 12 August 1920

Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - The point raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was discussed at some length yesterday. I stated fully why I cannot agree to the amendment. I said that it would be most, improper to leave it to the Trades Hall of each State to decide whether or not a union was bona fide. I will not repeat what 1 said yesterday, but nobody has attempted to review the facts I set out. The honorable member for Maribyrnong says that the unions fear that this Bill will destroy their power, and is directed for that very purpose. The honorable member and 1 are on- different sides now, but does he expect me to believe that the trade unions fear that I would introduce a measure that would, destroy them? The statement is absurd, and the more so1, because while I am told that the trade unions look with suspicion upon the Bill, I am overwhelmed with representations from the employers that they too regard the measure with suspicion, because they think it will put the unions in a paramount position.

Mr Mathews - They say that only for the purpose of strengthening you.

Mr HUGHES - The employers do not wish this Bill to be proceeded with; from every organized body of employers throughout the Commonwealth I have received communications beseeching me not to go on with it. When I am told by the employers on the one hand that the Bill will destroy them, and by the trade unions on the other hand that it is a meance to them, what am I to think? The, Bill has been introduced in order to deal with certain obvious evils in the industrial body. It is not pretended that it covers the whole ground and deals Wit- industrial matters as fully as we should like to deal with them if we had complete power, but it does give the trade unions a status that they never had before, and if honorable members will only read the Bill with an impartial eye, they will see that the employers have much more ground for their fears than have the unions for theirs. ' We propose to create a Commonwealth Council, composed of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees. Hon orable members opposite say that the employees may be non-unionists. In the very nature of things how can they be? Where are those non-unionists?

Mr Makin - There are a number of them on the Sydney water front to-day.

Mr HUGHES - Are they registered? They are not ; consequently they will have no standing whatever under this Bill. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) interjects; if he would only take a walk around himself it would do him the world of good. I stated yesterday that I would provide in this measure the same safeguards as were contained in the Arbitration Act, so that only registered organizations can be parties and come within the purview of this legislation.

Mr Makin - Who will have the right to say what is a bond fide organization that shall be registered ?

Mr HUGHES - Does not the honorable member realize that for sixteen years the conditions I am promising have obtained, and, as I stated yesterday, only three organizations that were not affiliated or would, not be recognised as bond fide by any Trades Hall ever came before the Arbitration Court, One was the union of bank officials, another was the Actors Federation, and the third was the Union of Insurance Company Employees. The Actors Federation has since affiliated with the Trades Hall, so that in sixteen years only two organizations that are not recognised by the Trades Halls have been before the Arbitration Court. During that term trade unionism has more than doubled its membership.

Mr Makin - That hardly answers my question as to who is to have the right to say what is a bond fide organization for registration.

Mr HUGHES - This Legislature, not the Trades Hall; we shall make that clear in the Bill. I should be very sorry to see unionism at the mercy of the fluctuating majorities in the Trades Halls throughout the country. I am prepared to insert after "industrial matters" the following definition, taken from the Arbitration Act: -

An organization in reference to employees means any association of not less than 100 employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuit' whatever, together with such other persons, whether employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits or not, as have been appointed officers -of the association and admitted as members thereof.

That is an ample safeguard, and if I were still an officer of the organization with which I was connected for twenty years, I should regard that definition as quite satisfactory.

Mr Mathews - There are many unions which will not register; what will become of them?

Mr HUGHES - They can be proclaimed. The Bill does not say that only registered organizations shall be dealt with, but it says that any- dispute may be dealt with. If a de facto dispute existed, should we have no means of dealing with it? We must have means for doing so. The Bill is intended to enable us to deal with disputes which, for some reason or another, are not dealt with by the Arbitration Court.

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