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Thursday, 17 September 1942


Mr MARTENS (Herbert) .- U have had a long connexion with this so-called compulsory unionism. That expression is a great mouthful. When preference has been granted to unionists, that is the end of the so-called freedom of individual conscience. The principal consideration of those who object to joining a. union is that, by refraining from doing so, they evade contribution to the costs incurred in securing the conditions under which they work and live. Reference has been made to Sir William Webb. The honorable member who made it would have been wiser had he refrained from doing so. They were not the representatives of the employees, but the representatives of organized capital, who walked out of the conference at which Sir William Webb said that he was in favour of preference to unionists. What was Sir William's reason for holding that belief? I ask any honorable member who represents a Queensland constituency, and is acquainted with the conditions that exist in that State, to point to any harm that has been done in it by the operation of preference to unionists. Its conditions will compare more than favorably with those of any other State in the Commonwealth ; and the industrial disputes that have occurred in it over the long period during which the principle has been in operation have been fewer than in other States. Very few of the employers there are opposed to preference to unionists. I have had handed to me by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) a telegram that he has just received, stating that in 39 of the 42 firms operating under the agreement, only one firm had refused to come into line. Doubtless those who advocate freedom of conscience would act as do refugees from overseas who live in Sydney and make clothes for some of the large firms of that city, without having any control exercised over their operations. David Jones, Murdochs, and the like do not want supervision of such establishments. All the bogies of which we have heard this afternoon were used in an attempt to prevent the introduction of preference to unionists in the industries of Queens.land. The last speaker referred to Mr. Forgan Smith, whom he lauded as a Labour stalwart only because it suited him to do so. Mr. Forgan Smith was a member of the Queensland Cabinet when preference to unionists was introduced in that State. It was not made applicable by act of Parliament, but authority was given to the Industrial Court to grant it whenever it thought fit to do so ; and it saw fit to do so in every claim which it investigated. I am satisfied that Mr. Forgan Smith is just as happy to-day as he was when he assisted to have the system introduced, because he knows what benefit it has conferred on the State. The organization that I represented before I entered this Parliament had in Queensland approximately 50,000 members. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) almost had a fit of apoplexy in his endeavour to show that Australian soldiers were 'being treated unjustly. I tell him that the Australian Workers Union, which believes in preference to unionists, provided for the fighting forces of the Commonwealth during the last war more than 50,000 men. It also kept its members financial while they were overseas fighting, and when those men returned to Australia they became entitled to whatever benefits the organization could bestow upon them. What section has provided the majority of the members of the fighting forces in any State during the present war? The majority of them belong to the working class and the trade unions, and believe in preference to "unionists.


Mr Marwick - Not 10 per cent, of them are unionists.


Mr MARTENS - That statement is simply rubbish. More than #0 per cent, of the members of the forces 'belong to the working class, and are members of the unions to which they belonged at the time of their enlistment. I have for many years been associated with the industrial movement, arid I know that in many callings in which a majority of the men have their union tickets, they compel other workers to join up or to get out, and very few get out. The reason that they were not willing to join up in the first place was not that they did not wish to contribute to the finances of a political movement in which they did not believe, but because they wanted, without contributing anything to the cost, to share in the benefits which the unions had won from the employers. I believe that the Government has done the right thing, and I am convinced that very few of the workers are opposed to what has been done. As a matter of fact, very few of the employers would now go back to the old system under which they bargained individually with their employees. They much prefer to have an organization to treat with.







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