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Thursday, 17 September 1942


Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) .- The smoke-screen behind which the Government is seeking to hide its efforts to enforce compulsory unionism in this country was intensified by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). The House should be well aware that this Government's attempt to enforce compulsory unionism dates back to when the Industrial Relations Committee, presided over by Mr. Justice Webb and consisting of equal numbers of representatives from the employers and the employees was created. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman ) and other Ministers declared that preference to unionists was a matter for the Arbitration Court, and was not to be decided by that committee. Nevertheless, the matter was put on the agenda, and the representatives of the employees tabled a motion recommending the Government to bring about compulsory unionism. To this an amendment was moved by the representatives of the employers. Mr. Justice Webb, an appointee of the Government, said that he did not intend to have the matter discussed further because, anyhow, he was in favour of compulsory unionism. That broke up the committee, and the responsibility for deciding whether compulsory unionism should be enforced was thrown back to the Government or to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Of course, the Arbitration Court is the body which should determine these matters. It has given certain rulings in regard to preference to unionists, but has not made it compulsory on men to embrace unionism. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) made illuminating references to Judge Drake-Brockman's award, but he omitted the most important matter, namely, that His Honour gave to legitimate firms of good repute the right to appeal to the Registrar for exemption from the clause giving preference to unionists. The claims for exemption were never opposed by the union. The ruling was made by His Honour in order to end the malpractices which were affecting both the unions and the manufacturers concerned. The Minister for Supply and Development put a totally different construction on the ruling. He said that some manufacturers had endeavoured to compel their employees to become unionists, but he did not inform the House that contracts between the Department of Supply and

Development and clothing manufacturers contain the following clause: -

Iiic contractor shall within seven (7) days from date hereof enter into an agreement with the secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia (or branch in States other than Victoria) in accordance with the outwork provisions of the awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.

The manufacturers are given seven days in which to ensure that their employees shall be members of the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union. These manufacturers are engaged mainly on defence work. Only a small quantity of civilian work is available to them owing to the rationing of clothes introduced by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (-Mr. Dedman). Unless they subscribe to the provision contained in the contracts they will have to close their doors. So this Government brought coercive methods to bear, not only on the workers but also on the employers. Obviously, if any firm decided not to abide by that clause, no contracts would be granted to it, and it would have to go out of business. The position was not correctly stated by Ministers. These back-door methods that the Governmenthas employed to force workers into unionism will be condemned by the people. I believe that the statements which have been made on this side of the House to-day showing that the Government is prepared to use any and every means to compel people to subscribe to its party funds, will react to its disadvantage. The Labour party is endeavouring to use the Arbitration Court to its own advantage. In one -State it appointed to an informal committee a Supreme Court judge, who used his influence in an attempt to bring about compulsory unionism. When the employers walked out of that conference, the Government resorted to other questionable methods by making it obligatory upon firms seeking government contracts to employ only union members and by forcing workers to produce union cards. It appears to me that the Government is prepared to compel everybody to give ' it political support, but is not prepared to compel anybody to support the interests of the nation in winning the war. It will force men to join unions by offering them such sops as increased wages and improved conditions, so that their union contributions may be added to the party funds, but, in the bigger job of winning the war and preserving the democratic rights of the people, this champion of compulsory unionism says : " We must have voluntary effort". It favours voluntarism for the defence of the country, but compulsion for contributions to party funds. That is characteristic of everything that has been done by the Labour party. It is prepared to sidestep the established laws of the country and to intimidate workers under powers taken in national security regulations. It is prepared to descend even to these low depths in order to force its socialistic will upon the people of Australia, not just for the duration of the war but for all time. The people will not permit n continuance of the Government's emergency powers after the war. The Government should be honest and inform the people of its real intentions. They would then know the Labour party for what it is, and would know how to deal with it at the next elections.







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