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Friday, 13 August 1920

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) knows very well that, under the two final clauses of this Bill, penalties might be imposed for many offences. If each clause were completed by a penal provision attaching to a breach of it, we could understand it. The Prime Minister knows that these penal provisions might 'be used against the officials of unions, not because they would not give evidence, but because they would not appear when their unions instructed them not to do so. He knows, also, that whilst the employer can pay a fine, the labour official cannot do so. If the intention were to treat both alike, there would ,be provision, not for a fine, but for imprisonment only. Again, it is not fair to imprison the individual employer or labour official in these cases. The employer, in the case of a business corporation, will represent the shareholders, and the labour official the members of his organization. In those circumstances, to he just, if punishment is inflicted it should be imposed upon every shareholder of a business corporation or every member of a union, and we should gaol the whole lot.

Mr Considine - That might be an excellent way of carrying on a strike.

Mr MATHEWS - Where provision is made for a fine and imprisonment the greater punishment will fall on the representative of the worker. The representative of employers can pay a fine, whilst the Prime Minister will admit that the secretary of a union may not be able to do so.

Mr Hughes - Yes.

Mr MATHEWS - Not only that, it might pay a large corporation to pay a fine of £500 day after day for a week, since its profits would continue to be made. No labour organization could pay fines of that kind. I regard these final clauses as the worst part of the. Bill. I have not taken much interest in the measure, because I think it is useless, but

I do take some interest in these penal clauses, because under them those I represent will suffer most.

Mr Maxwell - There is an easy way to escape penalties, and that is to obey the law.

Mr MATHEWS - I am against the imposition of penalties under this Bill, because I know that there are thousands of workers who will not abide by the decisions of these Courts, and it is not right that we should place them in such a position that they may have to go to gaol, whilst an employer similarly situated might easily escape imprisonment by payment of a fine. These penal provisions must be deleted from the Bill if it is to be acceptable to the workers of the community.

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