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Tuesday, 5 December 1905
Page: 6232

Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - I do not think that any argument would go to the root of this question sodirectly as that which might be based upon the history of the honorable member for Kooyong in connexion with the exercise of the very weapon which he now desires to placebeyond the reach of the workers. The honorable member stands in the same position as Satan reproving sin. He knows full well what is meant by the boycott, because he has used it, not only upon the mainland, but also in Tasmania, perhaps more than any other man in Australia. When the people of the island State awoke from their stupidity, and decided to follow the example of the electors in the Australian States by returning to the State Parliament ,a representative who was in sympathy with them, they selected a man of clean reputation, who was considered one of the best workmen employed on the Mount Lyell mines. Immediately he was elected as a labour representative, the boycott was applied to him by the directors of the company for whom he had been working, and he was thrown out of employment. The allowance made to a member of Parliament in Tasmania is very small, and yet an honest toiler,' merely because he was considered worthy to represent his fellows in the Legislature, was, through the instrumentality of men of the type of the honorable member for Kooyong, absolutely prevented from earning his living. The weak point of the proposed new clause was clearly indicated by the honorable member for Bland, and the honorable member for Kooyong had the ground completely cut from under him when he was asked to remove the invidious distinction, made to the disadvantage of the workers, and to permit the provision to apply to all persons who had the privilege of using trade marks. Those honorable members who talk most glibly against class legislation are prepared to place a weapon in the hands of the employers which will enable them to hound down the workers. They are content that the directors of the Broken Hill mines should be allowed to conspire U\ deprive men of an opportunity of earning their livelihood. When honorable members bring forward propositions of this kind, it is well that we should be able to turn back a few pages of their history, and see the black marks recorded against them by the workers. This is a bare-faced proposition, and I scarcely expected that the honorable member for Kooyong would stoop so low as he has done. No men in the world are less inclined to use coercion, or to resort to the boycott than are the workers. No men have suffered more than they have from the exercise of such powers, and they would be the last to mete out to others the injustice That has been inflicted upon themselves. The honorable member for Kooyong apparently regards the workers as demons almost equal to those with whom he is as sociated. He represents them as men who ought to be shackled, to be loaded with leg-irons as in the past. Thank God, those days are gone, and it is not possible for individuals like the honorable member for Kooyong to work their will. The workers are now represented by men who will see that justice is done to all, and I hope that this will be the last time that any honorable member will have ,the temerity to submit a proposal of this kind. The honorable member may well be prepared to withdraw his amendment. He may well regret that he ever brought it forward. Perhaps it is as well that the proposal should be put to the test, in order that we may demonstrate that such legislation cannot be placed upon our statute-book. The object of the amendment is to rob the toilers of their true representatives, or, in other words, to destroy their unity outside, so that they may not be able to secure proper representation within the walls of Parliament. The employers wish to have full liberty to meet together, and conspire against the workers who may be within their control. No legislation -is proposed to limit their powers in this direction, but the moment that the workers desire to exercise the1 same liberty of action, and to prevent the employer from robbing the consumer, and misrepresenting the producer, gentlemen, like the honorable member for Kooyong, wish to put leg-irons on them. All such efforts are, however, too late. The time has gone, never to return, when the people would submit to such restraints upon their liberty. They have received the advantages of education, and are fortunately in a position to safeguard themselves against the machinations of the representatives of capital. If the other- legislative proposals of the honorable member are no more liberal than that which he has put forward tonight, his place is not in this Parliament. He should be consigned to the museum, so that enlightened citizens might go there and gaze upon the curiosity which once represented a section of the people in the Commonwealth Parliament.

Mr. KNOX(Kooyong). - It is quite evident that my amendment has bitten my honorable friends in the Labour corner. They have, in effect, admitted that powers are conferred upon them bv the Bil] which they intend to use, and which they do not desire to have restricted in any way. Fortunately, honorable members regard the va pourings of the honorable member for Gwydir as of very small concern, and I do not attach any importance to what has fallen from him. I do, however, pay some regard to the statements of the honorable member for Barrier. We have repeatedly been told that a strike took place at Broken Hill in 1888 and 1891. It is customary for the honorable member to exhume the history of the events which led up to "that strike, and of those which followed it. On more than one occasion he has given utterance to the very statements which he has repeated to-night. I would ask him to consider what has befallen those who originated that strike. Some are discredited by all with whom they were formerly associated. We knew more than the honorable member did of what was being done at that time. There has been a great change since 1888. even in the unions. Thev have altered their methods, and have taken up a very much more reasonable attitude than they did in the old days, and. so far as the Broken Hill companies are concerned, they now receive every justice and consideration.

Mr Thomas - Williams' case had nothing whatever to do with the strike. It occurred in 1900.

Mr KNOX - The honorable member has referred to' a matter of which he has led the Committee to suppose that I had personal cognizance. So far as I am personally concerned, the honorable member has misrepresented the facts, because I knew nothing whatever of the cases to which he has alluded.

Mr Thomas - But as a director, the honorable member would not shirk responsibility for the actions of his manager.

Mr KNOX - Upon one occasion, when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was under consideration, the honorable member for Barrier did mention a case into which I inquired. I found that his information was absolutely inaccurate. All I have to say is that when the Broken Hill strike was in progress the honorable member was an active agent of the unionists. In those clays he was regarded as a very fair and moderate man, and I must confess- that I have had no reason to change the opinion which I then formed of him. ' He has always displayed a reasonable discretion which does him infinite credit.

Mr Watson - It is a matter of public notoriety that there was a black-list amongst the mine-owners of Broken Hill.

Mr KNOX -If that be so, I knew nothing of it. There were men there who were disturbers of the peace - agitators - whose actions certainly did not advance the interests of the workers. The honorable member for Barrier has made a number of charges as to which I have no personal knowledge. He is perfectly well aware that when the Broken Hill strike was in progress, I did everything that a man could do to benefit the workers. My conscience is absolutely, clear upon that point. I endeavoured to do justice to all men. In regard to this clause, I think that the AttorneyGeneral, has made a very fair explanation. In submitting it, I said that I thought it should be made > to apply alike to employers and employes, and that, in so far as it unfairly pressed upon the workers, it was not in accordance with my wishes. I unhesitatingly say that, if the adoption of the union label, which has provoked so much opposition, will only secure to the workers that which we have been told it is designed to secure, nobody will regret that opposition more than I will. I claim that the whole motive underlying the Government proposals is a desire to strengthen trade unions and to endow them with greater political power than they possessBehind all humanitarian considerations, there is the intention to use the union label for coercive and class purposes. I say that under Part VII. of the measure, special consideration is secured to the workers-

Mr Watson - That statement is incorrect.

Mr KNOX - Lawyers and large bodies of mercantile men, who have had to consider this question, entertain the same opinion. Unfortunately, in this House, it is regarded as an offence to be an employer of labour. In view of the clear exposition of the provision made by the AttorneyGeneral, I do not feel prepared to press for a. division upon my proposal, particularly as I admit that the law should be made toapply all round. I. therefore, ask leave towithdraw the new clause which I have submitted.

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