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Tuesday, 31 August 1920


Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .- I am not inclined to accept the amendment. It goes a long way further than was intended when we adopted the principle of arbitration. The Act at present only refers to the offence which an organization commits if it orders its members to do a certain thing. The Minister laid very little stress on the additional words he is proposing to insert, viz., "encourages, advises, or incites." There is a vast difference between ordering a man to refrain from work and encouraging, advising, or inciting him to do so. An officer of an organization may give utterance to certain views which are not indorsed by the committee of the organization, but the organization is to be held liable.


Mr Groom - Unless the Committee of Management was not cognisant of what the officer was doing.


Mr CHARLTON - I will state a case that occurs to me. Honorable members will remember that during the trouble in 1917, when the mines were held up be cause there were no engines running to convey the coal to port, it was claimed that the miners had taken sides in connexion with the dispute. I take the case of what occurred at the Richmond Main colliery, in which 200 or 300 men from the State of Victoria were employed. If when the difficulty was overcome, and the men who were out were asked to. go back to their places in the mine, although the Richmond Main mine was only one colliery connected with the industry, an officer of an association of miners had said to the men that be did not think it would be advisable for them to go back to the mine to work with the men who had been introduced from Victoria, the organization would be held responsible under the proposed amendment. I say as a practical man that it would not be advisable for the men to go back to the mine to work with other men who had not been accustomed to work in gaseous mines, and thus take the risk of losing their lives because of the employment in the mine of inexperienced labour. When there is a strike on we are often carried away by our feelings, and these things are not reasoned out as they should be. If any prominent officer of a miners' organization took up the attitude which I have suggested as justifiable, and said that in the circumstances he thought members of the organization, if they desired to protect their lives, should not go back to the mine to work with inexperienced men, the organization, under the new clause proposed by the Minister, might be charged with encouraging or inciting the men to do certain things.


Mr Maxwell - The, Committee of Management would not be liable on those facts, because the officer to whom the honorable member refers would be acting on his own.


Mr CHARLTON - Suppose the Committee of Management of the organization took up the same attitude. I do not hesitate to say that if I were a member of the Committee of Management that is the attitude I would take up, because any inexperienced man working in a gaseous mine might strike a match, and the result might be another Mount Kembla disaster. I am reminded by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) that in some cases it may be 2 miles from the mouth of the mine to the face at which men are working, and in the event of an explosion of gas there is little hope that the men would be able to get out. If in the circumstances I have mentioned the Committee of Management of an organization told the members of the organization that they did not think it would be wise for them to go back to their work, it might be claimed, under the proposed new clause, that the organization was guilty of doing something in the nature of a strike. In the case to which I have referred the owner of the mine and the State Government of Victoria were acting together, because it has since been proved that the owner asked the Victorian Government to put men from this State into the mine. The men employed in connexion with nine out of ten sections in an industry may be working, and because for some good reason those employed in one section refuse to work, and the officers of their organization advise them not to do so, it might be claimed that that is inciting the men to do a certain thing, and the organization might be held liable for the penalty under the new clause. I cannot accept that. I think that there is quite sufficient power in section 8 of the existing Act to enable us to deal with lockouts andstrikes.







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