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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr SPENDER (Warringah) .- The simple question which requires to be answered is not whether compulsory unionism is or is not being applied.

Mr Makin - The honorable member does not seem to know what question he wishes answered.

M.r. SPENDER. - The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) may take part in the discussion later. The question that has been asked is: What takes place in respect of men hitherto non-unionists, who are sent to Queensland for employment on jobs of the Allied Works Council ? It took the Prime Minister twenty minutes to tell us precisely what happens in such circumstances. His reply reminded me of The meanderings of Monty. Yet the question was extremely simple. It has been decided that men called up for compulsory military service in this country shall be paid specific rates determined by the Government. But men called up in the Civil Constructional Corps and sent to Queensland are obliged to become unionists whether they wish to do so or not.

Mr Curtin - But the law of Queensland provides for compulsory trade unionism.

Mr SPENDER - The law of Queensland is subordinate to the law of this Parliament. We are now witnessing an attempt to impose upon persons who are called up for civil jobs an obligation to become trade unionists. I have a great respect for trade unionists and have many personal friends among them. Honorable gentlemen opposite may cast gibes at us on this issue, but we know and they know that some individuals have a conscientious objection to becoming trade unionists. The Prime Minister has said that persons who have a bona fide objection to becoming trade unionists need not join a union. But who is to decide the bona fides of the case ? No one seems to know. I cannot imagine that any honorable gentleman opposite really believes that there can be a bona fide objection on the part of workers to trade unionism.

Mr Curtin - I tell the honorable member that in my experience I have on frequent occasions met men who have had conscientious objections to trade unionism and I have respected their objections.

Mr SPENDER - Who is to determine whether their objections are- conscientious ?

Mr Curtin - The point could quickly be determined by the foreman on the job and the union steward, I imagine.

Mr SPENDER - There is too much' imagination about the subject. Some time ago the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) drew attention to the fact that persons called up in the Civil Constructional Corps were being compelled to produce union tickets. A few days ago the right honorable gentleman moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the subject. Yet no honorable member opposite has so far been able to tell us who determines whether a man shall or shall not be compelled' to join a union. It took the Prime Minister twenty minutes to get to the point in the speech he has just delivered. With great respect to the right honorable gentleman, I say that men who object to trade unionism on conscientious and political grounds are being compelled to join trade unions.

Mr Curtin - I have not received a single complaint on that subject.

Mr SPENDER - Of course I accept the right honorable member's assurance, but I am surprised that it took him twenty minutes to answer a simple question.

Mr Pollard - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is wasting time.

Mr SPENDER - I have not been speaking for twenty minutes.

Mr Pollard - Will the honorable member tell us whether he is seeking a " yes " or " no " in reply to his question ?

The CHAIRMAN '(Mr. Prowse).Order! If the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) interjects again, I shall be obliged to name him.

Mr SPENDER - Many non-unionists have been called up and sent to work in the Civil Constructional Corps, and I have no doubt that numbers of them have bona fide objections to compulsory trade unionism. What we want to know is : Who determines whether a man's objections are bona fide or otherwise?

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