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Thursday, 19 November 1914

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I was very pleased to hear the declaration of the Leader of the Opposition on this important matter, and I am sure that the sympathy of this Chamber must go out to his colleague, Senator Bakhap. Had the latter been present when his leader commenced his address,. I am sure that he would have winced beyond description because of the way in which Senator Millen declared himself on this issue. That honorable senator did not give the proposal now under consideration his benediction, but he does not intend to vote against it. He regards it as quite an innocent proposal, which may safely find a place in the Bill. But what did his lieutenant say this afternoon ? Senator Bakhap described it in language so powerful and reckless that some of us were prone to believe that it was akin to the beast in Revelations. It is refreshing to know that his leader does not regard it as anything of so baneful a character. In fact, he regards it as almost a necessary part of the measure with which we are dealing. I need scarcely point out that there is much less difference of opinion on the question between the leaders upon this side of the chamber and Senator Millen than there is between Senator Millen and Senator Bakhap. Between the latter there is quite an unbridgable gulf. Those of us who have come through the firing line in this and other countries know that, in all Governments, there has been a section whose main impulse has been to put down industrial disturbances with a strong hand. Whenever the people have attempted to secure greater freedom, or a more just reward for their labour, that section has been in favour of sternly repressing them with a view to impressing the community generally. We have not been taught these lessons for nothing. They have burnt into our inner consciences, until we have come to regard the introduction of Military Forces into industrial disputes as a menace to the public welfare. On this subject of armed interference in domestic troubles it is well to recall that a wide difference of opinion exists, not only amongst honorable senators opposite, but also amongst the gentlemen who composed the same party at other times in the political history of this country. During the great maritime strike of 1890 in New South Wales., when things were approaching a crisis, and it was feared that blood might be shed, members of the Government of that State exhibited a marked difference of opinion as to the policy which should be pursued. One Minister - Mr. McMillan - so strongly dissented from the views held by his chief that, though he did not resign from the Cabinet, he talked about doing so. His policy was to suppress the dispute by means of coercion, and of the stereotyped strong hand. I have also a lively recollection of the utterances of another Minister on that occasion, who thought that the strikers should be shot down.

Senator Millen - Does the honorable senator revive the libel of Mr. W. N. Willis ?

Senator LYNCH - No. I am pointing out the difference of opinion which existed between members of the Government of that time, which was not a Labour Government. A strong section of the Parkes Ministry believed in suppressing the strike with the police and the military, but Sir Henry Parkes took the wiser and saner view of the situation, and, instead of agreeing with Mr. McMillan and other members of his Cabinet, he simply took hold of the helm again and said, "These measures will not do." The final result in New South Wales was that, so far from the military being called out, the maritime strike progressed right to the end, and, according to my recollection, there was not a single soldier called out to deal with the strike.

Senator Turley - Nor in any other State.

Senator LYNCH - Exactly. Since it is shown very clearly that the resources of the State Government were equal to the occasion, and since the Liberal Government of the day saw no necessity to call out the military, as Senator Bakhap assures us, there is a vital necessity-

Senator Bakhap - I say that it may be a necessity in only one case out of a hundred. Still, there is a constitutional obligation to intervene.

Senator LYNCH - Since a Government which the honorable senator would have supported found it possible to cope with a difficulty of great magnitude^ - a difficulty the equal of which has not been heard of in the State since that time - wherein comes the danger of adhering to the course which that Government proved to be successful and adequate for the purpose? At the same time, this proposal is one about which we need not get overheated - that is in respect to its necessity, or in respect of the way. in which it will accomplish the end it- has in view. I am rather inclined to think that it is an innovation which only goes a certain length. At the same time it seems to me to open up a vista of difficulties of which we know nothing. For instance, Senator Stewart proposes to prohibit strictly the calling out of the Citizen Forces for one purpose, and for one purpose alone, and le leaves it very clearly to be inferred that the Citizen Forces may be called out to deal with other forms of domestic violence. Therefore, by introducing this one step to accomplish what, after all, is only a portion of the distance to be accomplished, the honorable senator does open up a vista of difficulties, which I say, in the interests of the Citizen Forces, it is not well to do. We can imagine other forms of domestic violence occurring. According to the amendment of Senator Stewart, it would not only be possible, but it would be the bounden duty of the Government to call out the Citizen Forces to suppress another form of domestic violence, although they would not be called upon to suppress a domestic violence connected with an industrial trouble.

Senator Bakhap - That is why it is so illogical.

Senator LYNCH - Yes, because it only lakes one step.

Senator Stewart - That is the resolution of the Conference.

Senator LYNCH - That is quite so. I do not know how the discussion took place at the Conference. I am pleased to think that even Senator Millen agrees with the resolution of the Conference, or, if he does not agree with it, he says no harm will be done by its adoption. I nm pleased to think that the Leader of the Opposition here can see no wrong in the verdict recorded by the Labour Conference at Hobart a few years ago, but I certainly do see the germs of something which may provoke a very difficult situation in the future, whether the proposal has been agreed to by the Conference or not. I can imagine forms of domestic violence occurring where it would not only be incumbent upon the Citizen Forces, but it would be their plain duty, to come out to suppress the violence. Therefore the proposal will create a very invidious position for the citizen soldiers to be confronted with. In the first place, it says to them, " You shall not come out to quell a disturbance if it has its origin in an industrial trouble, but you must come out to quell a case of domestic violence if it has not its origin in an in dustrial trouble," thereby producing a situation which, as far as the Act is concerned, will place us in no logical or intelligent position.

Senator Turley - There have been very few domestic troubles in Australia.

Senator LYNCH - I can cite a few instances. I can cite a case which occurred in Western Australia, where, if it was not an industrial trouble pure and simple, it was very closely allied to it. The gold miners believed that they were entitled to all the alluvial gold which might be found anywhere on a gold-field. So strongly was the feeling expressed by the men that when the agitation had come to a climax, and when at length the demand was placed before the country in concrete form, it had the support of, I believe, no fewer than 10,000 men. Some of these men were armed, and did not disguise the fact, and it only required a match to be struck at that time, especially when the State Forces were called into action, to create a very serious riot out of what was a disturbance closely allied to an industrial one. Sir John Forrest has a very lively recollection- of what happened on that occasion. I can imagine a disturbance of that kind which, while strictly not one of an industrial nature, would be so closely related that there would be no alternative but for the Federal Government to call out the Military Forces to suppress it if necessary. Therefore, this amendment would place the Citizen Forces in a most invidious position. It would test their loyalty to their oath.

Senator Turley - That was not an industrial disturbance.

Senator LYNCH - I do not know what my honorable friend would call it.

Senator Millen - It was much the same as the disturbance at Eureka or Lambing Flat.

Senator LYNCH - Yes. That is one sample which would seem not to come directly under the head of this proposal. It is one outside that class altogether, and one in which my honorable friend must admit the Citizen Forces would, and should, be called out to maintain order. I can recall an instance which occurred at Waihi, in New Zealand. It is just as well for us to look at the weak points of every argument. While industrial disturbances in the past, in my opinion, had all the virtues and qualities of right and reason on their side, we have arrived at a time when, perhaps, owing to the growth of better feeling among the citizens, industrial troubles will arise in which opinion will be very evenly divided. In the case of the Waihi strike in New Zealand, public opinion was so much divided that the genuine unionists, who were standing out for principles which they cherished and for which they were prepared to sacrifice much, were found to be in a great minority. Owing to the action and overbearing manner of their opponents in the township, in this gold-mining district, the genuine unionists had to fly into the office of the trade union, and seek shelter there from the onslaughts made upon them. Here was a case in which opinion was divided, rightly or wrongly, and it was divided in such a way that it would certainly compel any impartial observer to say that, if such a case occurred in the Commonwealth, it would be the duty of the Government to bring out whatever Forces they thought necessary to preserve the public peace. That was an industrial trouble of which it is hard to say what the end might have been had. not wiser counsels prevailed. I can imagine that, had the opposing forces in the Waihi strike pushed things more to a conclusion, and armed themselves, and met in open conflict in the street, it would have been the duty of the Government of New Zealand to see that force was applied to the suppression of the riot, or disturbance, or whatever it might be called. It is clear that an industrial disturbance was brought about in which public opinion was overbalanced to the extent of the" unionists having to shelter themselves from the attacks of their opponents. In a case of that kind in the Commonwealth it would be very convenient for the Government to have a force to hold the scales evenly, and not to allow those opposed to genuine unionists to have the field to themselves.

Senator Millen - You ought to vote against this proposal, then.

Senator LYNCH - The amendment has placed me in a serious quandary. The consideration of it opens up very curious features. These instances are not the product of imagination at all, but facts. What happened in the past is a fair guide as to what may happen in the future. While I am in favour of this - according to the Leader of the Opposition - innocent proposal of Senator Stewart, I think it is just as well to try to see what it is worth. 'I feel, too, that there is every justification for not asking our Citizen Forces to take part in the suppression of any industrial disturbance, unless, of course, dire necessity requires such action to be taken. I intend to vote for the proposal, although I believe that it will create some very awkward positions. We can only hope that the wisdom of the Government of the day will be equal to the solution of the difficulties when they do arise.

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