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Friday, 4 March 1932

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- I have not previously spoken in the new Parliament. For the last three weeks I have listened to a discussion of a bill designed to put Mr. Lang in his place. J have been amazed to hear from honorable members opposite, of both wings of the Labour party, the same old story that they are the friends of the people. Now, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, and after an all-night sitting, they come forward and protest against the withdrawal of preference to unionists within the Public Service. Over 2,000 years ago Aristotle said -

It is tlie ignorance of demagogues that is the ruin of democracy.

That saying may well be applied to their modern prototypes. Recently, the Premier of New South Wales, a man who has brought disrepute on the name of Australia, introduced an arbitration bill, which, though not yet in operation, is designed to give unqualified preference to unionists. I challenge honorable members opposite, of either wing of the Labour party, to say that they do not . approve of that measure. They dare not denounce it. In that bill it is provided that if a union official, agitator or disorganizer, call him what you like-

Several honorable members interjecting,

Mr SPEAKER (Hon G H Mackay - Disagreement with the ' opinions that are being expressed does not excuse inter jections by an honorable member who has already spoken. Every honorable member of the Opposition has had an opportunity to express his opinion, and a number of them have done so in very definite terms. In common fairness, they must now allow the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to continue in silence.

Mr WHITE - Any union official can demand of an employer that he discharge any non-unionist in his employ, under the threat of a penalty of £5 for every day that such a person remains in his employ. Has the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), or any other honorable member opposite denounced that proposal? Its adoption in Russia could be understood; but why should any- person, in Australia be not allowed to earn a livelihood because he refuses to bow the knee to petty tyrants in the trade unions of this country? It is almost unbelievable, but it, is a fact that that was the proposal of the Lang Government. Those not in unions were not even given the right to join a union. By a slender majority, the Upper House in New South Wales inserted in the Arbitration Bill introduced recently by the Government of that State an. amendment providing that any person making application shall be allowed to join a union. There is nothing wrong with trade unionism; everybody knows what it has done in the past. But the days of chains and slavery have gone. These gentlemen should bring themselves up to date, because they are not acting in the interests of the members of trade unions. At one time, unionism was designed to assist the men in their particular crafts. Now, however, it has become a mere political weapon. The workers are conscripted into trade unions by men who, during a great national crisis, were the opponents of conscription. At the behest of these gentlemen, a man must join a union or be refused the right to work. Many members of this Parliament have served their apprenticeship in the ranks of trade unions. They may have been good tradesmen or they may not; but because of the possession of a glib tongue, or perhaps a little more audacity than their fellow unionists, they have found their way into this Parliament, where they have declaimed loudly and frequently about starving women and children. How often have we heard during the last week the protests of these gentlemen regarding the treatment of "the starving widows and children in my electorate'', and similar nonsense? No one wishes any one in Australia to starve, and it is not true to say that persons are starring here. It is, however, lamentable that there should bc 400,000 people out of work. We must, at all costs, provide those who heed it" with food. But is New South Wales the only State which has any concern for those who arc unfortunate enough to be unemployed? Other States are coping with the problem, and have not defaulted in order to do so. The Premier of New South Wales and his followers inside and outside this chamber would have us believe that Australians want food without working for it. That implies the belief that a bread queue or a soup kitchen standard is good enough for Australians. What Australians want, if they have British blood in their veins, and do not, follow the Russian inspiration, which seems to dominate the policy of New South Wales in particular, is the right to work out their own salvation. No Australian wants to be dominated by union organizers and officials. His desire is free. Every Britisher is entitled to freedom of choice as to where he shall work. Yet so strong a grip has the blighting hand of industrialism obtained upon Australia that there has been reaction in many directions even within the Public Service. The Scullin Government placed in operation regulations which compelled public servants to become members of an industrial organization in order to benefit from arbitration awards and determinations. Those who were not members of a union received less pay than others working beside them, simply because the latter belonged to a union. I cite the case of a man in the Commonwealth Public Service who, taking the line of least resistance, endeavoured to become a unionist. It was humiliating to him, and was opposed to his principles, because he had been an army officer and did not "believe in domination by men whose ideals were different from those which he held. His application wai deferred month after month. Finally, when pressed to give u reason for the refusal to allow him to join the organization, he was told " This is an organization for clerks, and not for army officers ". I have the whole of the correspondence relating to this case, and shall place it on the table of the House if requested to do so should there be any further humbug regarding the rights of unionists. I am pleased indeed that the Government " has taken early steps to deal with this nonsense of preference to particular mcn who choose to allow others to speak on their behalf.

The position of the waterside workers is, unquestionably, the concern of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). He has been in the industrial movement for many years, however, and must realize that there is good argument on both sides.

Mr Holloway - The honorable member at one time was a member of a union.

Mr WHITE - I have never been a member of a union in my life, thank goodness. I have always battled along on my own. I am more for individualism than for unionism as it is practised, and would not be conscripted by any union official. The watersiders were making excellent money on the wharfs in . Melbourne, but were misled by a few union officials. That is not my dictum alone. The Victorian Labour Premier, Mr. Hogan, has denounced those who led them astray.' They refused to obey an award of the Arbitration Court delivered by Judge Beeby. They were not up against harsh employers who wished to place their "heel upon the face of Labour. Union officials, seeking a little notoriety, advised them to go on strike and defy the court. The result was that the shipping of the Commonwealth was paralysed. After a good deal of chaos and disorganization had been caused, the Bruce-Page Government issued licences to any persons who .would undertake the work. Among the volunteers who accepted, the number of returned soldiers was larger than was to be found in the ranks of the Waterside Workers Federation. They are the only men to whom I would give any preference; and it is a sentimental preference that they deserve. Work on the waterfront has proceeded smoothly for about three years, despite the fact that the late Government constantly tried to upset it. I know from my commercial experience that that work ha3 never been better done than during that period of years. Prior to that, there was a good deal of pillaging and breakage of cases; but the union refused to expel from its ranks any man who had a criminal conviction against his name. Because mcn outside the ranks of the waterside workers federation have been prepared to work under an award of the. Arbitration Court, at an excellent rate of wage, these gentlemen have moaned for years that an injustice lias been done to unionism. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) is just as enthusiastic now as he has always been in defence of unionism. He had the chance of a lifetime when he returned to Australia from Great Britain. Had he had the mind of a Ramsay MacDonald, instead of a small party mind, he would have realized that there were iu Australia others besides the3e few unionists. He held the confidence of the people at that time, and could have formed a composite Ministry. Had he done so, he would still have bean Prime Minister to-day. He failed to realize what a great opportunity was presented to him, because his thoughts were not of the whole of the people of Australia, but merely of those who wore in tho shadow of the Trades Hall, The consequence has been that his party has dwindled almost to nothing, and the people of Australia now realize what the Labour movement really stands for. For years the right honorable gentleman deluded the people with a spurious unionism. Now they are tired of Trades Hall domination, and have returned to Parliament in overwhelming' numbers men who will deal with the affairs of Australia in a way befitting the position that the Commonwealth holds in our great Empire, and in keeping with the needs of the whole of the people.

Question resolved in tlie affirmative.

House adjourned al 5.1 |>.m.

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