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Wednesday, 25 August 1920

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- When I commenced to dissect this clause I thought that we were approaching the consideration of the question, in all good faith, with a desire to give effect, logically and fully, to the policy of the Government, which is that of conciliation and arbitration. But as the debate goes on I see the trail of the " agitator " over the whole of the proceedings. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) would dismiss an employee because he is dissatisfied or is agitating; he would dismiss him, he says, with perfect confidence, for any of these reasons, and, in fact, for no reason at all. Let us then approach this subject of conciliation in the atmosphere of unconciliation which the Government and their supporters have created for us. The Minister himself says, "We have introduced this modicum of relief because of a case that was tried in Tasmania, where it was found that a member of an organization that was approaching the Court for redress hadbeen dismissed. We have introduced this particular paragraph for the special purpose of dealing with this special case."

Mr.Groom. - With that class of cases.

Mr BRENNAN - My answer to the Minister is that the Government cannot afford to summon the Federal Parliament every time the Court in Tasmania or any other State finds defects in Acts which this Government have succeeded in passing. We are dealing with principles, and not with special cases, even although those special cases in an especial way show defects in measures introduced by the Government. I gather that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) mistakes the purpose of this Bill as being designed to promote strikes and agitations, since, when I put a very simple case to him, he says that it carries no conviction to his mind. As I pointed out, an organization might he registered under the Act. An organization, like every other body, acts on the advice of its leaders. It moves on the advice and representations made probably by its president and other officers. These officers, in the minds of honorable members opposite, of course, are agitators, undeserving of any respect. But in our view they are the responsible officers of responsible organizations. Assuming that we had an organization registered under the Act, it might naturally follow that the first person to suggest to that organization what it ought to do for the betterment of the conditions of its members would be its president or some other constituted . leader, such as a shop delegate. Aud as soon as the president or any duly constituted leader said to the members of that organization, " We ought' to file a plaint," or " Having regard to the cost of living and the material that I have at my disposal to convince you we would be justified in seeking better conditions," he would become a dissatisfied employee; he would be a marked man for dismissal, and would get no protection under this Bill.

Mr Riley - He would be an " agitator."

Mr BRENNAN - And would stand condemned as such. That has always been the policy of the opponents of Labour. Their policy has always been to seize the live men in an organization and to victimize them before their influence extends to the members of the organization. They pick them off one by one. They make it unsafe for a man to be a leader, an adviser, of his fellow workers. And this Government, which stands for conciliation and arbitration, says, " We will back them up in dismissing a man in such circumstances." They come forward with this paltry pretence at amending the Act and say that in those very rare cases where a man who is a member of an organization that has actually taken action is dismissed, we will punish the employer. They put that forward as a genuine at. tempt to protect the workers in an industry. They protect the individual in the very exceptional case, but in the related cases in which they should logically protect him and in the numerous cases that will arise, they offer him no protection whatever. They, in effect, " bark " out, as the honorable member for Wakefield " barked " just now, " We will allow these men to be dismissed for no reason at all."

Mr Richard Foster - I did not say that.

Mr BRENNAN - That is what this Government policy of conciliation amounts to. I invite honorable members in the Ministerial corner, if they wish to be called "the Country party," and not "the socalled Country party." to address themselves to this question - to see where they are being led by the party of reactionaries sitting behind the Government - and to support the amendment which I have moved.

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