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Tuesday, 29 November 1927


The PRESIDENT - Order!.


Senator OGDEN - Briefly, let us review the events that have led up to this trouble.


Senator Grant - And do something; do not be humbugging about it.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! This is the second time that I have asked Senator Grant to pay some regard to the Standing Orders. I warn him that if he continues to interrupt I shall take other steps to enforce obedience to the order of the Chair.


Senator OGDEN -I have directed the attention of my friends in the Labour party to what I consider is their duty in this matter, because I am convinced that a few words from them will do more to bring about a settlement of the present trouble than lengthly speeches from honorable senators who support the Government. Let us consider briefly the events that have led up to this dispute. Some time ago the waterside workers applied to the court for a new award, and Judge Beeby very properly refused to hear their claim until they obeyed an earlier award of the court. If we are to have arbitration, "we cannot have direct action too. "Direct action is a contravention of the first principles of fair play and British justice. The attitude of the waterside workers is really a revolt against the principle of arbitration, and those who endorse their action in effect approve the spirit of rebellion. This is a serious matter for the whole of Australia. The waterside workers, a week or two ago, decided not to load ships in Australian ports after 5 o'clock in the evening. The situation is particularly serious to the State, which I, in common with other honorable senators, represent in this chamber. In addition to refusing to work overtime, the waterside workers also made further demands. Some time ago, during the hearing of a claim which they had before the court, they demanded the right to discharge and load cargo at the Electrolytic Zinc Company's private wharf at Risdon. That claim had never been before the court, and, although the waterside workers enjoyed preference in regard to all work offering on the public wharves, they had no legal right or moral claim to work offering on the Electrolytic Zinc Company's wharf at Risdon. Naturally the company refused the request, because it would have meant a considerable addition to production costs. To enforce their demands, the waterside workers then took direct action against vessels engaged in the business of the company. A few days ago the Yarra, a Norwegian steamer, unloaded at Risdon a cargo of calcines, and loaded a cargo of zinc. Upon arrival at Sydney, that vessel was declared black by the waterside workers, who refused to handle the zinc. Another vessel, the Kitwitea, called at Hobart last week with a cargo of calcines. It unloaded at the company's wharf, and when it came back to load general cargo at a public wharf in Hobart it, too, was declared black. That ship was obliged to leave without a cargo, and it is now laid up in Newcastle. Another vessel, a Japanese cargo ship, intended to load zinc at Risdon last week, but the agents, having been advised of the probable trend of events, refused to allow the ship to call there. They feared that if it loaded zinc at Ris don it would be declared black at all Australian ports. The Electrolytic Zinc Company also manufactures superphosphate, and it is having trouble in connexion with that trade too. Recently the steamer Marken, which discharged a cargo of phosphate rock, and loaded zinc, was declared black. The present serious situation demands the attention of all honorable senators. Something more than the declaration of platitudes is necessary to bring the present state of affairs to an end. The Hobart branch of the waterside workers has declared that it would prefer to close down industries rather than submit to defeat on a matter of principle. But what is this matter of principle about which the waterside workers appear to be so concerned? The first principle of unionism should be to safeguard the rights of every individual to a share in any work that may be offering. No such principle is involved in this dispute. No invasion of privileges is contemplated, and certainly there has been no attempt to inflict any hardship upon the men. They claim as their exclusive right, all the work that is offering on the wharves. The Waterside Workers Union is an. exclusive organization. I am a trade unionist, and I believe in the principles of trade unionism.


Senator Needham - The honorable senator did at one time.


Senator OGDEN - And I do so still. Let us examine the so-called principle which certain shoddy trade unionists - I regret that I am obliged to use the term, but I have used it on the. public platform - attempt to set" up. The waterside' workers are, as I have said, members of an exclusive organization. They enjoy certain privileges under an award of the Arbitration Court. One of those privileges is preference to unionists, but they take the stand that this privilege shall be enjoyed by only the few who are allowed to join their union. Does Senator Needham call that true trade unionism? Is not the first principle of unionism to protect the weak against the strong, and to assist every individual worker? I fail to understand this demand for a monopoly of the work on the wharfs.


Senator Givens - By giving preference to unionists, this Parliament created that position


Senator OGDEN - I do not know who is responsible for it, but I want to point out the serious position of Tasmania. The zinc works may have to close down, and the farmers who will want to send their potatoes to the mainland may be prevented from doing so. The busy fruit season is coming on.


Senator Kingsmill - What would be the effect of closing down the zinc works?


Senator OGDEN - It would probably throw 3,000 or 4,000 men out of employment. The refusal of the waterside workers to load vessels in overtime hours may bring about these disasters. The waterside workers have said they would rather close down the industry than give way upon a matter of principle. I have no objection to men knocking off at 5 o'clock - they have a perfect right to do so - but there are 300 or 500 other men, also unionists, who would be glad to fall into line at 5 o'clock and complete the work they refuse to do. The unions should be compelled to allow thi? to- be done. I do not absolve the State Labour Government of Tasmania from its share of responsibility in this matter. It has not stated openly its objection to the action of the waterside workers.


Senator Sampson - It is afraid to do so.


Senator OGDEN - I suppose it is, but I think the Federal and State Governments should exercise all their powers to meet force by force, and see that these men obey the law. Have we in Australia reached the stage when it is legal for a few men to declare black a ship, or a dozen ships, or throw a man or hundreds of men out of employment, and thus bring about depression, suffering, and hardship? The rights of the general community ought to come before those of a small section. It is time, therefore, the Federal Government or some authority sought for a legal interpretation as to whether some one cannot be made responsible for the act of declaring ships or other things black. If I had my way, or my will, the first thing I should do - and it should be done if there is legal authority to do it - would be to de-register these men, and place them outside the protection of the Arbitration Court. If they would not observe the awards of that court, I should declare them rebels. At any rate, I should abolish the preference they are getting in regard to work on the wharfs. I should put them in the position of other unions that have to fight their own battles. If they will adopt methods of direct' action, and use force in order to compel companies to comply with their wishes, they should be met with force. I have no desire to become abusive, but I object very strongly to the attitude of these men. As a matter of fact, I believe that the Labour party generally objects very strongly to their attitude. I am satisfied that the "waterside workers have not the general support of other trades organizations; but, unfortunately, like some men in public life, these other organizations are ' afraid to say what they believe to be right - they fall in loyally behind an organization which refuses to consult them. The Waterside Workers' Federation says to them, in effect : " This is our trouble. We shall fight our own battle, even though it may bring about disorganization and disruption, and throw the whole of you out of employment. That is nothing, so long as we may enjoy special privileges." A few weeks ago; the waterside workers in Hobart demanded the right to unload coal which came down to Hobart in river steamers from the Catamaran coal mine. They were warned that the effect of their action might mean the closing down of the mine ; but nevertheless they persisted in their demand and the steamers had to be laid up, the coal mine was closed down, and 300 persons settled about the mine had to scatter through the State looking for employment. The waterside workers took that particular action in order that they might unload Newcastle coal at 6s., 7s., and 8s. an hour. I do not know that the Catamaran coal mine was in as sound a financial position as it might have been, but the action of the workers in demanding the right to unload coal at those increased rates was the deciding factor in the closing down of the mine. Previously ,the coal had been discharged by the crews of the small river steamers. I urge the

Government to' use every legal power it possesses to prevent this calamity being brought upon the people of Australia. The waterside workers must be told that, like other unions, they must observe the law. Very few unions deliberately flout an award of the Arbitration Court. It is the duty of the Federal and State Governments to tell the Waterside Workers' Federation to obey the awards of the Arbitration Court, or else be placed outside the pale of the protection of the court.







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