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Tuesday, 14 June 1904


Mr Robinson - The Government have given notice of six pages of amendments, and I want to know why they omitted this particular one?

Mr HUGHES - It is a peculiarity of these gentlemen-

The CHAIRMAN - I think that the honorable member is travelling beyond the amendment.

Mr HUGHES - Perhaps so; but the honorable and learned member for Werriwa has been arguing that one man out of every seven will be able to secure an award which will apply to the other six as well as to himself. I am pointing out that that is not the intention of the Government, and that the common rule will apply to persons other than the original parties only after they have been notified, and have had an opportunity of being heard. The honorable and learned member for Wannon wishes to see the amendment in type, and I now inform him that if he will wait he will see it in writing, or perhaps in type, very shortly. We shall be glad if he can do anything to make the amendment really effective, and to secure that no person other than the parties to the original dispute shall be affected by the award of the Court, unless and until they have been served with notice, and have had an opportunity to show cause. I take it that the position which I have stated completely destroys the arguments of my honorable and learned friend.

Mr Conroy - Let me have the amendment. I may accept it.

Mr HUGHES - Is the Government reduced to the necessity of having to write out an amendment, and give it to the honorable and learned member in order that he may accept it. Does he not know that if he accepted it the Committee might consider that fact as affording the best of reasons for not adopting it. We shall submit our amendment to the Committee. I would remind the honorable and learned member that the majority rules in this Committee, and not the honorable and learned member, who has always, except on one or two occasions, been in a minority. I only wish to say that every union with which I am acquainted provides for government by a majority of those present and voting at ordinary or special meetings. Now a " special meeting " within the meaning of this Bill, so I understand, is a meeting summoned for the special purpose of referring a dispute to the Court, and no union in New South Wales could refer anything to the Arbitration Court except under these conditions. There must have been a notice inserted in the press, or each member of the union must have been notified through 'the post of the intention to hold a meeting -on such and such a date - at seven days or more distant from the date of the notice - at which a certain resolution would be moved. The resolution must set forth that it is the intention of the union to refer to the Court a particular matter in dispute, and the dispute has to be set out. If honorable members wish to insert such a provision as that in the Schedule, instead of leaving it to the Court to provide for it by regulation - all such regulations must be laid upon the table of the House for approval or disapproval - I feel quite sure that no objection can be taken to" that course. Every union in New South Wales has to adopt the course I have indicated, and the Arbitration Court has, on several occasions, refused to go on with the hearing of a dispute, because the meeting at which the reference was decided on was not duly and constitutionally summoned. When every member of the union has been notified that a special meeting is to take place, the majority of those present is held to be sufficient to voice the desire of the union.

Mr Conroy - The Minister mentioned cases in which only the members of the Committee could be present.

Mr HUGHES - I will take two cases, that of the Shearers' Union and that of the Seamen's Union. At shearing time the members of the Shearers'' Union are scattered all over Australia, and if a meeting were called at. Bourke or Wagga, who could attend, except the persons to whom it had been found convenient, by the union, at a general meeting, or by means of a ballot taken in that year, to delegate the power to decide such matters? In the case of the Seamen's Union, which is a very large one, the general meetings are often attended by only half-a-dozen men. The rest of the members are away at sea. I would remind the honorable and learned member that the primary business of a unionist is to earn his living. He does not do that by belonging to the union alone ; that organization simply helps him to obtain better conditions. In other unions, however, such, for instance, as a Tailors' Union, there might be 150 or 200 members, and a meeting might be attended by 100 or 150 men. In the same way, whilst the Incorporated Law Society might have 300 members, only five would attend a meeting. Still, my honorable and learned friend would not say that these five persons, if they formed a quorum, should not carry on the business. The possibility of holding a large or small meeting depends entirely on the character of the union. The unions conduct their business effectually under the conditions I have indicated. It has always been the practice to allow the unions to conduct their affairs by means of meetings attended, under some circumstances, by only members of Committee, whose powers, however, are severely restricted. The experience gained by the Shearers' Union affords proof that the Court will not accept anything that a committee may do. The New South Wales Arbitration Court refused to allow the committee of the Shearers' Union to alter the rules, except in accordance with the decision arrived at by a general meeting, or bymeans of a ballot of the members. Therefore, the whole body of the members of that union had to be consulted before a dispute could be brought before the Court. So it is in the majority of cases. I beg honorable members to believe that no union will be forced, against the will of the majority, to accept ari award, and that no person who is outside the immediate organization making the application, will suffer any injustice, because the award will not apply to such persons until they have been cited to appear and show cause.

Mr. DUGALDTHOMSON (North Sydney). - I am sure that honorable members must be satisfied, after having listened to the speech of the Minister of External Affairs, that the Government are in no hurry to push through this measure. Threefourths of the speech delivered by the honorable and learned member was devoted to matters apart from the subject under discussion, whilst as to the rest, he certainly gave us some information, and afforded us a most excellent reason for opposition to the clause. He twitted the honorable and learned member for Werriwa with lacking imagination. He certainly displayed wonderful imagination himself, and he also credited the Committee with a vivid imagination, because he apparently regarded it as capable of discerning the nature of an amendment that has not yet been tabled by the Government. The Government has flooded the Chamber with amendments, and yet we have heard nothing of one of the most important, the very existence of which justifies the honorable and learned member for Angas in his opposition to this clause. At the present moment we are not even aware of ' the nature of that proposal.

Mr Hughes - That amendment is in the hands of the Attorney-General, and will be circulated as soon as it is printed. I can, however, give the honorable member a general idea of its substance if that will suffice.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then we are all in the hands of the AttorneyGeneral, because we are perfectly ignorant of what we are doing, without having that amendment before us. Personally, I think that the clause should be postponed, seeing that an important amendment has been foreshadowed, of the contents of which we are not yet seized. I do not accuse Ministers of any intention to keep the Committee in the dark.

Mr Hughes - The honorable member may accept my word that the sole object of the amendment is to prevent any person not being a party to a dispute from being affected by an award of the Court unless, and until, he has been cited in some effective way, and has had an opportunity to show cause why the common rule should not apply.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The very recital of the object of that amendment by the Minister is sufficient to illustrate its importance. Yet we have proceeded thus far in the consideration of this Bill without having previously heard of it.

Mr Hughes - The Prime Minister informed me that he notified the Committee of it one day last week.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was not aware of it. I should like to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether the amendment is intended to prevent a decision, of the Court fiom extending to non-unionists who are engaged in an industry, if in the first place unionists only are parties to the reference to the Court? The honorable and learned member for Werriwa stated that as unionists only had a voice in the reference of industrial disputes to the Court, the interests of only one man out of seven would be considered. To that statement the Minister of External Affairs replied that, under the amendment . proposed, the whole seven would have a voice.

Mr Hughes - The one man out of the seven would have a voice as to whether the union to which he belonged should go before the Court, and the other six would have a voice as to whether the award of the Court should apply to them.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If, out of seven men who are employed in an industry, only one is a unionist, will the other six not be bound by the award of the Court until they have been given an opportunity to . show cause why the common rule should not apply to them?

Mr. HUGHES(West Sydney - Minister of External Affairs). - I wish to be perfectly frank with the honorable member. Let me take, as an illustration, the case of the employes at Mort's Dock, Balmain, Sydney. Let us suppose that the Iron Trades Council in that establishment appealed to the Court for an award of some sort. If the Court declared that the wages payable in the iron trade should be so much, I am not going ro say that that award would not apply to every iron-worker in that establishment. It would apply to the non-unionists employed there equally with the unionists, but it would not affect any person engaged in the trade outside until the application of the common rule had been invoked. All outsiders would have an opportunity of being heard as to why that rule should not apply to them. Here is another case which will serve excellently as an illustration, In New South Wales the iron trade employers have applied to the Arbitration Court for an award in favour of a leduction in the wages payable by them. In similar circumstances the question involved under this Bill would be whether that reduction would affect persons outside those establishments which are conducted by the employers who are members of that particular union. Under the Government proposal, I say that it would not, until notice had been given to such persons, and they had been afforded an opportunity of showing cause why the common rule should not apply.

Mr. DUGALDTHOMSON (North Sydney). - That is not an answer to the argument advanced by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. He contended that the whole of this reference might be decided upon by a minority, either of employers or employes. The Minister of External Affairs, thereupon, used what he evidently considered a very strong argument. He asked, " Is not this House a minority of the people, and does it not make laws for the people " ?

Mr Hughes - I did not say that it represented a minoritv of the people.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Honorable members of this House constitute a minority of the people, and yet we make laws to govern them. But the difference is that all the people whom we govern can exercise the franchise, whereas under this Bill, it is proposed to deny the franchise to some of those who will be affected by its operation.

Mr Hughes - In what way?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Simply because unionists are recognised under the Bill, whereas employes generally, apart from unionists, are not recognised.

Mr Hughes - They have the option of joining the unions.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What would the Minister say if the political franchise were extended only to members of unions, and if, in answer to his complaint, an honorable member declared, " Oh, but the public have the option of joining the unions."

Mr Hughes - The franchise is extended to all, whether they want it or not.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The very principles of the party to which the Minister belongs are opposed to any restriction of the franchise. It is extended to men in consideration of the taxation which they pay, and because of their manhood. But under this Bill it is not proposed to give a vote for manhood or the taxation which individuals contribute. Nothing of the sort. Consequently the whole argument of the Minister falls to the ground. The honorable and learned member for Angas and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa argued in favour of the full franchise, which has always been advocated by members of the Labour Party.

Mr Hughes - The honorable and learned member for Angas wishes to withdraw his amendment.

Mr Glynn - Because I cannot carry it.

Mr. Hughes.Can the honorable member for North Sydney give me a single case in which an injustice will be done to non-unionists if the Bill is subject to . the restriction of which I have just spoken?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not difficult to do that. Take the case of an employer of a thousand men, only 200 or 300 of whom belong to a union. The union may decide to apply to the Court for an award. A great majority of the thousand men may think it undesirable to adopt that course, lest it should result in a decreased wage. In spite of that, however, a majority of the members of the union may force an appeal to the Court. An award may be given decreasing the wages paid, and the thousand men will be compelled to submit to if.

Mr Hughes - Does the honorable member assume that the Court will make an award of that sort?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will it never make an award in favour of a reduced wage? The Minister must know that if there are a thousand employ6s engaged by one man, only 300 of whom are members of a union, and if a dispute occurs on the motion of the unionists, the latter will be able to foroe the thousand men into the Court, and compel them to submit to a decision in favour of a reduction of wages. Then, if the Court chooses to make the common rule apply to the whole of the employes in that industry, it will have power to do so. I recognise the difficulties of the position, especially in connexion with a Federal arbitration measure. - That is why I think the honorable and learned member for Angas has done right in endeavouring to limit the application of this provision. In dealing with industrial dsputes, which extend over several States, it would be almost impossible to obtain the voice of the whole of the -employes engaged in them. I quite agree, at the same time, with the honorable and learned member for Wannon that the amendment is almost too restricted in its present form. I repeat that it is idle for any Minister to make a speech, such as that which was delivered by the Minister of External Affairs, reflecting upon members for having moved amendments when the Ministry themselves hold up their sleeve a proposal which has an important bearing on this very provision. Yet we are expected to discuss this clause and this Bill without any knowledge such as that laid before us at this late hour. I trust that the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Angas will be carried. The Minister of External Affairs has already stated that before there is a strike in certain unions there has to be a majority decision.

Mr Hughes - I only said that that occurred in the union with which I am connected.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I know from my observation that there is such a rule in some other unions ; and it is a good rule to recognise.

Mr Spence - Some unions require a twothirds majoritv.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In any case a simple majority is very reasonable. When a vote of the kind is taken in the case of a strike, why should a vote not be taken in a matter which may lead to a strike ?

Mr Hughes - If each person is served with a notice and does not take any interest in the matter he is merely in the position of an elector who does not choose to vote.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - To some extent that may be admitted; but I think that in the case of the- New South Wales Court each employe is not served with a notice.

Mr Hughes - In our particular union he must be served with a notice.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought that the Minister in speaking of notices was referring to the Court.

Mr Hughes - I was referring to the practice of the union.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may or may not be done in unions, but there is no provision in the Bill to that end. There is no provision that a majority of a union, voting even at a meeting, shall decide the question. There is a sub-clause which provides that the consent to submission to the Court must be given in writing under the hands of a majority of the committee of management of an organization. But that committee may not be appointed for the purposes of this Bill.

Mr Hughes - If the honorable member looks at schedule B, he will see that he is not correct.

Mr Spence - The committee must beauthorized by the union.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The schedule referred to only specifies the purposes for which the union is formed, and provides for certain matters.

Mr Hughes - It provides for the control of the committee by a general or special meeting.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That onlymeans that the organization decides how it is to elect the committee, and the control of that committee is by general or by special meeting.

Mr Spence - Will the honorable member read the schedule further?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I see that the schedule provides that the rules of the association must provide for -

The manner in which consent of the association shall be given to any submission to the Court.

But assent can be given in writing under the hands of a majority of the committee of management, who may have been elected without any reference whatever to the Bill.

Mr Hughes - The Registrar would not endorse a rule which would permit that.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - While the Registrar approves of certain rules for the election of the committee, he cannot decide what motives or objects will govern in their election.

Mr Hughes - It might be insisted, for instance, that any intention on the part of a committee to refer a matter to the Court should be . sent in writing to each member, or be advertised.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But that is not insisted on in the Bill.

Mr Hughes - Let the honorable member move an amendment to that end on the schedule.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is an amendment before us that will meet the case. The Bill as it is provides that a majority of the committee, which may consist of three or four, may give their consent in writing.

Mr Spence - That only means that the committee affix their official signatures to the document.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - According to the Bill, a majority of the committee can refer a dispute without consulting the organization.

Mr Spence - No.

Mr Glynn - Two men might refer a dispute under the Bill.

Mr Hughes - But there will be regulations which will be laid on the table.

Mr Lonsdale - Regulations cannot override the Bill.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am quite aware that regulations will be laid on the table of the House; but we are giving approval now, if we carry this clause, to the submission of a case to the Court being decided by a majority of the committee, no matter for what reasons the committee were elected, or however small the committee may be. Something ought to be done to make certain that the desire for a reference is more general than might be represented by two or four men in a committee of three or six.

Mr Hughes - Let the honorable member show how that can be done; let him suggest whether it shall be done by notice to each member, or by advertisement.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member for Angas has shown one way in his amendment.

Mr Watson - That is an impracticable wav.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hope that the Government will recognise that there is a difficulty in the way, and that the amendment is a reasonable one. If not, of course the Government will resist the amendment.

Mr Hughes - There is no such provision in New South Wales.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There has been- a great deal done in New South Wales which makes the State Act more unpopular than it ought to be.

Mr Watson - So far as I know, there has never been any difficulty in New South Wales in this connexion.

Mr Mauger - Nor vet in New Zealand.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know that there has been no difficulty in New South Wales. It is for the Government to propose something to meet the case.

Mr Watson - There was a doubt whether the Bill was' not already sufficiently explicit on this head. The practice in New South Wales has been to issue citations before applying for a common rule.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know that that was provided in the Act.

Mr Watson - It was not, but the power was there.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The amendment proposed goes a little way towards meeting the objections. To me, at any rate, it is objectionable that a small minority - so small that it may consist of only two or three men - should have the power to decide a reference to the Court, and commit every worker in an industry to a decision which he may regret.

Mr. LONSDALE(New England).There is no need in this discussion to insinuate wrong motives to honorable members on this side in submitting amendments ; and it would be very much better if the Minister of External Affairs, whom we all admire, would keep himself within the bounds of the Bill. Because some of us have taken a very strong stand against the measure, the Minister wishes to infer that we desire to see the workers sweated at the very lowest wages. That is a sort of argument which should not be used. I care very little myself what the Minister may say of me, personally. It is sufficiently known to the workers that I am just as sympathetic towards them as is any honorable member behind the Government. All my life I have done my best for the working classes, and I am opposed to the Bill only because, in my opinion, it will create an aristocracy of labour, while sending a large number of men out into the world to starve. If we can have a Bill that will help the whole of the workers - which will not injure one portion in order to benefit the other portion - I shall be prepared to give that Bill all the help in my power. I give credit to the Government, and honorable members behind them, for being honest in their conviction that this Bill will attain the end that I have indicated ; and I am honest in my belief that it will not. Our opposition to this and other clauses has been shown to be right, by the intimation of the Minister of External Affairs that he is going to submit an amendment that will meet some of the difficulties and objections to which we have called attention. That intimation is a proof that our opposition has been effective, and that the Ministry have come to the conclusion that our arguments are fair and right. The statement has been made that no common rule has been applied in New South Wales, unless the persons to be affected have been cited.

Mr Hughes - I never made such a statement.

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