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Tuesday, 14 June 1904

Mr ROBINSON (Wannon) - Several honorable members object to the withdrawal of the amendment. While the original amendment was somewhat too wide, I fancy that the projected amendment is too narrow.

The CHAIRMAN - The projected amendment cannot be discussed now.

Mr ROBINSON - I wish to point out some reasons why some such amendment as the honorable and learned member for Angas first gave notice of should be carried. The members of these organizations comprise a very small proportion of the industrial employes. If we give to one organization the power of bringing employment in any industry before the Court we give a very small proportion of the employes the possibility of bringing an industry before the Court, and of the Court fixing the wages, hours, and conditions of employment. In the Bill specific power is given to the Court to exclude a large number of men from earning their living. In New South Wales disputes have been brought before the Court by organizations which comprised only a small minority of the employes in an industry. The members of these organizations have got preferential treatment, and by so doing they have been able to take the bread out of the mouths of some of their competitors. Action of that kind is not in accordance with natural justice, and the Committee should be slow to legislate in such a way. The proposal of the honorable and learned member for Angas is, I think, a little too wide in that respect, but the provision in the Bill is so preposterously narrow that it should call forth the condemnation of all reasonable men. Under the Bill an organization of employes need comprise only one hundred persons, so that the expensive machinery of the Court might be set in motion by fifty-one persons. That is a monstrous proposal. What the honorable member for Darling desires is quite clear. He wishes to build up the employes' unions as political organizations at the expense of the employers. The fines of the employers are to be paid to the unions of the em ployes, which are political organizations, and thus the Labour Party is to be maintained at the expense of the employers. That is the long and the short of their support of the Bill. Under it they propose to extract money from one class to keep going the political organizations of another class.- Some such proposal as that of the honorable and learned member for Angas is absolutely necessary to prevent a small minority from bringing a case before the Court. There should be a petition signed by 1,000 employes before a case could be brought before the Court. Why should fifty-one persons, who see an opportunity to obtain better terms for themselves than their fellow-workmen can hope to enjoy, be allowed to put the expensive machinery of the Court into operation? In every case under the Bill, as under State legislation, they will ask for preferential treatment - treatment which will secure employment to them while workmen outside the organization will be lacking it. In some of the organizations under the New South Wales Act the members of the unions do not comprise 10 per cent, of the employes in their industry, and yet they have managed to secure for themselves preferential treatment, leaving the other 90 per cent, to battle for their living as well as they can. This is the provision which honorable gentlemen opposite are sup- porting, but it is one which we should not countenance. Therefore, while the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Angas may be too wide, the Bill is certainly too narrow because it will enable fifty-one employes to set in motion the Court, possibly to the injury of thousands of other emploves.

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