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Tuesday, 31 August 1920

Mr RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) . - I bow readily and always to the knowledge and opinions of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) in coal-mining matters, respecting which he seldom goes astray, but he is entirely on the wrong track in what he conceives to be the intention of the amendment.

Mr Charlton - I do not know the intention, but the effect of such an amendment will be what I have said.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - The honorable member is also on the wrong track as to the effect. The honorable member has referred to a new arrangement made by possibly three-fourths of the pastoralists in the Commonwealth; but that arrangement was made under pressure, because they knew that without it they could not get the wool off the sheep's back. This amendment does not concern that arrangement at all.

Mr Charlton - But it will concern it.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - For, I suppose, from twenty to thirty years it has been the custom for station-owners, both in the settled areas and wayback, to arrange with certain men to do their shearing. These men enter into agreements and sign up to go from one station to another at award rates.

Mr Charlton - Could not all the sheep on the holdings referred to be sheared under such agreements?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - I was going to say that that is thereason this amendment is moved-

Mr Charlton - It is the reason for my opposing it.

Mr Gabb - This is what we expected.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - What did you expect?

Mr Gabb - Just what you are telling us now.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - How do you know what I am going to tell you ?

Mr Gabb - You have already told us something.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - I have not told you anything, but if the honorable member will possess his soul in patience, I shall proceed to tell him.

Mr Ryan - What have you been doing up to now?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - Simply telling somehonorable members where they are wrong. As I was saying, for many years past, station-owners in the north of South Australia, right up to the Queensland border, have been in the habit of engaging their shearers in Adelaide, under agreements, to shear first one station and then another, right through the season. Until very recently that has been done at award rates. Recently, however, for some reason or other, the union has forbidden men to enter into such agreements, and insists that they shall sign their agreements on the stations. Let me say here, that under the arrangements which have prevailed until quite recently, station-owners were able to employ the same men year after year; and this proved of great mutual advantage. ;

Mr Fenton - Could not the same be done without signing?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - Why should it be done without signing? The employer is responsible for the fares of the men, and if the agreements were not signed in the city there would be no obligation on the part of the men to sign on when they arrived at the station. I may saythat a good many of the stationowners in South Australia get on very well with the union's principal representative, and for years there has been no trouble, the shearing going on like music until completion. Why should' the men not be allowed to do as in the past, for, as the honorable member for Huntermust admit, it is a sound business proposition? That is proved by the successof the system.

Mr Makin - If there were a variation of the award covering the industry, would the persons who signed the agreement get the benefit of the variation?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - Undoubtedly. They would sign on in the terms of the award or any constitutional variation of it. My complaint is that men were not allowed to sign on under a recognised award.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This amendment would not allow them to do that.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - It would; the agreement would be subject to the award existing up to the time of the engagement, or at the time of the shearing, if honorable members would prefer that. I am dealing with the complaint which has been in existence for the last year or two, and which has been a very great grievance. The men desired to sign on. They had worked on the same stations before, and knew that the owners were splendid employers.

Mr Fenton - Does the honorable member think that even if the amendment were carried the men would sign on if the organization did not wish them to do so?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - Yes, certainly; because it would be the law and the men would be protected thereby. We are trying to get rid of industrial unrest, and this embargo in regard to signing on is one of the most unjustifiable things in connexion with industrial organization.

Mr Ryan - What evidence of that has the honorable member?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - I have the evidence of both station-owners and shearers, and I was delighted when the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), at the instance of those engaged in the pastoral industry in Western Australia, submitted his amendment. On the grounds of business and common sense, the proposal should commend itself to honorable members on both sides.

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