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Thursday, 19 November 1914

Senator TURLEY (Queensland) . - I should not have risen to take part in this debate were it not for the statement by Senator Gould of a certain opinion which I thought had been exploded years ago. I really did not think that any one 'was under the impression today that it is the men who are at the head of the unions who cause strikes. Senator Gould has said that if secret ballots of the members of unions were taken before a strike took place there would be no strikes. I have been a fairly long time now in the Labour movement, and my experience has been that in the case of every strike with which I have had anything to do it was not fomented by the men at the head of the unions concerned. Nine times out of ten they have acted, as I am sure you, sir, have often acted, as a brake upon the men in their unions. But when the members of a union have decided to enter upon a dispute, their leaders have loyally recognised" their duty to their unions. What would be thought of the members of the executive of a union if when a dispute arose they said, " We have been your officers for a long time and have carried out your instructions, but we intend now to go back upon you and will not carry out your instructions in connexion with' this dispute " ? Such men would not be fit for the positions to which their fellow unionists had appointed them. I think that there is no member of the Senate who now really believes that there is much force in the old contention that industrial disputes are due to the leaders of unions. There have been ballots taken in connexion with strikes, and they have been decided upon by overwhelming majorities of the members of the unions concerned. Why has this been the case? It is because the members of the union have been suffering serious disabilities which other people have not recognised. It is only those who wear the shoe who can say where it pinches. It is easy for one person to say to another, " Those are very nice shoes, and I should imagine that you find them very comfortable,'' while the person wearing them may 'know that they are really very uncomfortable. An idea seems to be prevalent that the average workman is always looking for strife. On the contrary, -he is opposed to a strike if it can possibly be avoided. He wants to live peaceably. He has his own obligations to his wife and children. No one knows 'better than does a member of a -union what those dependent upon them may have -to put up with as the result of a -strike. Tt is because the 'members of a -union wish to prevent strikes that they have had recourse to the law. I have ;known 'numbers of -men who have been getting along -nicely in the world, and Have established little homes for themselves, and who 'have joined in a strike though it has meant the loss of their homes, simply because the disability under which they "were 'working was so great that they considered anything better than that they should continue to suffer under such conditions. Senator Gould has made a reference to an industrial difficulty which arose some years ago, and which resulted in the calling out of the troops. Let me tell the honorable senator that the matter to which he has referred has been largely responsible for the fact that members of the- Labour party are in a majority in the National Parliament to-day. There were no members of the Labour party as such in Parliament prior to that time.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - - Yes, there were.

Senator TURLEY - They were not in Parliament directly under the banner of Labour as they have been since the strike of 1890. I remember that before that time there was a strike in Western Queensland. A stranger to Queensland, reading the newspapers at that time, would have come to the conclusion that the western country- was in a state of revolution. As a matter of fact it was nothing of the sort. It was suggested that it was necessary that every one who could carry a gun should be sent to the western districts of Queensland immediately to put down the revolution. The strike was stopped as a result. There were rumours that it was possible that wool sheds would be burned.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - A good many wool sheds were burnt.

Senator TURLEY - I think that my memory of the matter is more accurate than- is that of Senator Gould, and I say that there were no wool sheds burnt at that time. I remember that one rumour was given publication in Queensland at that time that shocked the community. It was said that the men on strike had poisoned a tank of water in the west. It is necessary to say that it was not an ordinary 400-gallon tank that was referred to, but a tank holding many thousands of gallons. Representations were made to the Home Secretary in Queensland to have the water analyzed, and samples of it were sent to the Home Secretary's office for the purpose. It would have required not a little poison but tons of strychnine to have poisoned the water in that tank. If there is one thing which the men in the back country would not put up with it is the poisoning, of water. They know the value of water perhaps better than any one- else, for they know what it is to be on a dry track. I mention this as an example of the rumours, which were published to stir up feeling, and induce the people of Queensland to believe that there was a state of revolution in the western country. I should liketo say that the men on strike went intocamps, and the storekeepers in the nearest, town supplied them with everything they required, though they had to depend merely on the word of the secretaries of the different organizations for payment for the goods they supplied. I know of the case of a woman who kept a store in the* neighbourhood of one of these camps, and. supplied goods to the value of some thousands of pounds. She had some stock running on country near the camp, and when she found that the strikers requiredmeat she gave them permission to kill the stock and obtain all the meat, they required. They were not able to pay her for the goods she supplied for two or three years. She sold out her business later, but she received every penny due to her for the goods she supplied to the strikers on credit. So far from there being a state of revolution in Western Queensland at the time, there were no acts committed which might not be committed any day in the streets of the city.

Senator Senior - The water referred to by the honorable senator was not poisoned ?

Senator TURLEY - No. A bottle of water was fixed up so that the rumour might be published broadcast in the newspapers to injure the men on strike. Senator Bakhap has said that Senator Stewart, by his amendment, proposes that we should abrogate the provisions of section 119 of the Constitution. The honorablesenator should know very well that we cannot do anything of the sort. He knows that the Constitution must be observed by the Executive. I think that this is a fair amendment of the Defence Act for the Senate to make, and I hope that persons outside will not be misled in connexion with it.

Senator Bakhap - Does the honorable senator think that it is in accordance with the Constitution?

Senator TURLEY - The honorable, senator seems to be under the impression that the Executive have no other means but the use of the Military Forces to deal with industrial violence. I hope that that is not the impression of the people generally. The reason why we do not desire that the services of citizen soldiers should he used for this purpose is that submitted by Senator Gould. However, the honorable senator has suggested that the Executive would not take the citizens of the same State and put them against each other, but that what they would probably do would be to use Victorian members of the Citizen Forces against Queenslanders, and members of the Queensland Forces against Victorians. That, in my opinion, would be just as bad as setting the workers against their fellow-workers in the same State. We have organizations of carpenters, bootmakers, seamen, and other trades established throughout Australia. They may not all be members of the same branch, but they all belong to the same organization, and honorable senators should realize that what we are objecting to is that the members of one branch of an organization should be called upon to shoot down the members of another branch of the same organization. I rose chiefly to contradict a statement which I thought had been exploded many years ago. I believe that the amendment will do good. If, in order to settle trouble of a domestic character, our citizen soldiers are called out, the effect will be to make our defence system a great deal more unpopular than it i3 to-day.

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