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Thursday, 12 August 1920

Mr CONSIDINE (Barrier) .- The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) appear to be much concerned as to whether the industrial- organizations will work under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act or under this Bill. The Prime Minister has become involved in something of a tangle. He talked about the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) " walking outside himself," " walking all about himself and coming back again," but his own explanations in reply to various questions put to him showed that he also was " absent from the body." I do not know whether he was " present with the. Lord " or where he was, but he certainly did not elucidate the point raised by the Opposition as to the particular organization which would be called upon to act, in the event of an industrial dispute. My belief is that the industrial organizations outside will go on their way regardless of this Bill.

Mr Blundell - That is to say, they will be a law unto themselves.

Mr CONSIDINE - If the Industrial Peace Bill commends itself to the men in the industrial organizations outside - if they think that they can gain anything by going to the tribunate for which it provides - they will avail themselves of it. If, on the other hand, they think they can gain nothing, from them, then the Government may have their special tribunals, as provided for in the Bill, but we shall not have industrial peace. Despite what honorable members may say, that is the actual position. Honorable members appear to be surprised and shocked, but I invite them to throw back their minds to what happened in connexion with the Newcastle coal-mining trouble in New South "Wales in 1917. The employers, through their agents, the National Government then in power in New South "Wales, tore up, so to speak, the Mining Act, under which a man was not allowed to work in the face. of a mine unless he had been engaged in coalmining for two years, and all the " riffraff " of the country was gathered together to act as " scabs." What did the employers care about industrial organizations as long as they could get out the "coal?

Sir GRANVILLE Ryrie - The men who came from the country districts were not ".riff-raff."

Mr CONSIDINE - I said nothing about the men who came from the country. The honorable member cannot put words into my mouth. I had in mind the " scab " bureau which was opened ' in Collinsstreet, Melbourne, and which gathered men from all quarters, regardless of whether or not they belonged to any organization, to work in the coal mines. All that was desired was to get out the coal. And what for? To help John Brown and Company. Did we hear anything then in regard to industrial Tribunals or arbitration Courts? Not much. If that was good for the " bosses/' it cannot be bad for the industrial unions to play the same game. And so it goes on. The employers, when they are in control, do not bother about industrial organizations unless it be to try to " break " them. We have had a great deal of talk as to bringing in these organizations, whether they register under the Bill or not. I gave the Prime Minister a case in point as affecting Broken Hill. A handfull of men there registered under the State Act and Judge Edmunds went to Broken Hill and solemnly gave them an award. But the thousands of workers in the industry refused to have anything to do with the Court. The only resUlt of the award was that thousands did not work and no sulphide, lead, or zinc was produced.


Mr CONSIDINE - Of course it is, and the Prime Minister recognised that it was when he side-stepped the question I put to him. He has been a party to the appointment of -a chairman of a Tribunal for an unregistered organization that is representative of the men at Broken Hill. When the State Court made its award the thousands of miners at Broken Hill said, "You can have your award, but it will not produce lead or zinc"; and it did. not. In connexion with the coal-mining trouble at Newcastle in 1917 the State Government tore up an Act that was designed to protect the miners. What, then, is the value of safeguards in this Industrial Peace Bill? If an industrial upheaval took place to-morrow, would there not be a special meeting of Parliament, constituted as it is, to tear up the safeguards given the industrial unions. If the Government received orders from the industrial exploiters to take that action they would quickly do so, just as the National Government in New South Wales tore up the Mining Act'. We must look at the facts fairly and squarely. We must recognise that, whether safeguards for organized labour are provided or not, organized labour outside, if powerful enough, will be recognised by the Parliament. But all the safeguards that could possibly be introduced into the Bill would not be worth a snap of the finger -if organized labour were not powerful. In such circumstances the Government would not Tecognise it. If industrial labour is strong enough to force recognition we shall be in the same position, as our friends in Russia. We shall be the organization de facto even if we are not the " recognised " organization. The Prime Minister will appoint the chairman of a tribunal to see whether or not we are to have industrial peace. The Allies will not recognise the Soviet Government, but they appoint commissions to decide all sorts of trade questions. That being so, we have the substance, and the other" side can have the shadow.

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