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Wednesday, 22 June 1904


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -As the time of honorable members has been so much occupied this afternoon in considering the question of subletting,it is, perhaps, appropriate to inquire whether it is necessary or desirable for us to sub-let so much of the business proposed by this Bill to the trade unions of Australia. I am quite aware, as has been stated, that one of the great objects of the measure is the facilitating and encouraging of organization; but I take it that the only organization which should be encouraged is one for the purposes of this Bill, and not for other purposes.

Now, a trades union organization is for other purposes. In some cases that purpose is to provide benefits ; in many cases the purpose is political, and a large proportion of the subscription paid goes not to purposes such as this Bill provides for, but to other purposes which are not included within its provisions. Not only, in my opinion, could associations be formed altogether independent of trades unions, for the purposes of the Act, but it could be done at a much less subscription by the members of the associations than the subscription to the trades union, which necessarily is larger than would be required for the purposes of the Act, because the purposes of the union are considerably more extensive. I am not one of those who say that men should not be compelled to do something for the benefit of the community. I can quite see that if the measure is to be as beneficial as its ardent supporters think it will, it will be perfectly right to compel members of the industrial classes and employers in those classes to do something. But the question is, should that compulsion not be strictly confined to what is necessary for the purposes of the measure which enforces the compulsion? Should we not merely say that a man shall join an organization for the purposes of the Act only, and that he shall not be required to join an organization for benefit purposes, when, perhaps, he has already provided himself with benefits in a friendlysociety, or to join an organization which is political in its association, as some unions are, when he is absolutely opposed to the political policy which it supports? That seems reasonable.


Mr Watson - Nearly impracticable, I think.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think I can show the Prime Minister that it is quite practicable, and more easily practicable than the provisions of the Bill. Surely it is a reasonable conclusion. If so, then a proposal to compel men - because it is practically compulsion, if it can be decided that employment is to be given to only unionists - to join a body which has purposes other than those for which they join, and probably purposes antagonistic to those in which they believe, is one that ought not to meet with the approval of honorable members. It has been interjected by the Prime Minister that these organizations need not necessarily be trades unions. In theory that is quite true, but in practice it will be .found that they are trades unions. When this Bill becomes law, just as was the case in New South Wales, it will be found that certain existing trades unions will claim to represent the employes in particular callings. Although they may form only a small proportion of these employes, still they will claim to be an organization which can represent them, will be accepted by the Registrar as fulfilling the conditions, andthen no other union will be allowed to represent those employes. Although the Acts of New Zealand and New South Wales do not absolutely say that trades unions shall be the organizations referred to, still practically it has been found that the trades unions have established their claim. Although in many cases they comprise only a few of the employes in the industry, still they have established their claim to represent those employes. So that, as a practical issue, we must recognise that in almost every case - I admit that' a few exceptional cases may arise ; one or two may have arisen - these organizations will be the trades unions as we know them. It must also be remembered that the decisions of the Courts have gone very far beyond what possibly some members of the Committee anticipate. I shall allude to only one case, which has been referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth. Under a decision of the Arbitration Court of New South Wales, the employe of a baker in the area to which it applies must be a unionist - though not necessarily when he enters' the employ. If anybody in the employ of that baker does not within a ' certain period join the union, he must leave. This decision has been enforced on men who were outside the original dispute. It was enforced through an agreement' made by some bakers - masters and men, and that agreement being made a common rule by the Court, it was extended much beyond those who were parties to it. Under that common rule it was decided by the Court that a man who is not a unionist shall not continue to receive employment. If a non-unionist who has been in the trade for twenty years, says, " I decline to join the union, because it has a political complexion or a political association, or because it has benefits which I have already provided for through my friendly society," then out of that business he must go. It must be acknowledged, therefore, that we are giving the opportunity for most drastic decisions. And when we see what has taken place, we must consider what may occur under this provision. If evidence be needed of the political complexion or character of some unions, it can be found in the case of the Shearers' Union, which has been referred to so often. Surely that is largely a political body? In its rules it provided that there should be a contribution to a political newspaper.


Mr Watson - Not to a political newspaper. It is no more political than is any other journal.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Well, to a newspaper which is largely political.


Mr Watson - As every newspaper is.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the same way I would object to force from men a contribution to the Age, the Argus, the Herald, or the Telegraph. .


Mr Watson - It is a newspaper which expresses political views.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is a newspaper which has a strong political leaning, and gives expression to strong political opinions.


Mr Watson - When the honorable member has said that it is a newspaper, he has said everything.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am quite ready to admit that the same remark is true of a great many newspapers. In its rules, the Shearers' Union provides that there shall be a contribution to a newspaper.j and also a subscription to the political expenses of candidates. The latter rule has been brought before the Court, and a decision has been given which is intended to make an alteration in that respect.


Mr Watson - The Employers' Federation is strongly political.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Certainly, and if' there was any such provision as regards any such association, I should object to it on the same ground. In Sydney lately there was a proposal that all the associated unions should join the Political Labour League. A motion to that effect was moved, and it was defeated by only two votes.


Mr Page - The Political Labour League is a separate body from the Australian Workers' Union.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course it is ; otherwise there would be no need for the proposal to be made. There is no doubt that the two votes required will be readily obtained at a future date, and that the unions will become affiliated with the Political Labour League.


Mr Watson - If the majority of the members think fit.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A majority has nearly been obtained.


Mr Hutchison - The Employers' Union is political.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit that it may be, and it is on some questions, but that is not the point. The Bill does not provide for the payment of subscriptions into the funds of unions of employers. The proposal in New South Wales was that the trades unions should join the Political Labour League. That proposal was defeated by a majority of two votes. But when a number of new unions have been formed - a process which is always taking place under the Arbitration Act of that State - a majority will, no doubt, soon be obtained in favour of joining the Political Labour League.


Mr Mauger - It might be against doing so.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course it might; but it is not likely that it will be so. What would the members of - the Ministry say if the unions to which the operation of this Bill is to be largely intrusted were to propose to join the Free-trade or the Protectionist Association ?


Mr Watson - Some of them have practically done so.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not saying that they have not a right to do so; I am speaking only of their relation to this Bill. If the whole of the unions to which the operation of the measure will be largely intrusted were proposing to become part of a Free-trade or Protectionist Association, would the Government support the proposal to force workmen to join a declared active political body to whose principles they were absolutely opposed?


Mr Watson - The unions are primarily . trades unions. If they become incidentally political that is absolutely a matter for those who compose them.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is a creating of constituencies. I have given the evidence in support of my conclusion. The facts are not denied, and I leave it to the Committee to judge of the soundness of my inferences. I know where the objections would come from if a majority of the existing unions, whose members comprise only a small part of the workers as a whole, were- proposing, or were likely, to unite forces with any political party on this side of the chamber.


Mr Watson - Some of them have already done that, iri opposition to the political labour movement.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Have done what?


Mr Watson - Have given weight to . a political organization other than the Labour Party.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -To what political organization ?


Mr Watson - To the Protectionist Association chiefly.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There has been no association of the unions with the Free-trade Party.


Mr Watson - A number of the leading men in some of the unions are strong freetraders.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I quite believe that.


Mr Hughes - Many of the members of the union with which I am connected would not vote for the leader of the Labour Party in the State Parliament.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the unions are proposing to join the Political Labour League, which supports that gentleman.


Mr Hughes - All that the members of the unions are compelled to do is to contribute to their funds ; they cannot be compelled to vote for any party.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Ought we to compel men to contribute to the funds of unions holding political views which are contrary to their own convictions?


Mr Hughes - Why cannot they vote as thev think fit?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will leave the matter where it rests now, and the Minister of External Affairs can reply to me when he rises.


Mr Hughes - If the trades unions were joining the party to which the honorable gentleman belongs, not a. word would be said about it.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Probably not from this side of the chamber, but a great deal would be said from the other side:


Mr Watson - Some of the best unionists in Sydney have been voting for the Free-trade Party all along, but we have not objected to them as. unionists.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course not. But it is now proposed that all the unions shall join the Political Labour League, which votes one way, and one way only.


Mr Hutchison - Is that the honorable member's objection?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is objectionable to compel men to join unions which hold political views and exercise political influence in opposition to their convictions.


Mr Hutchison - Where is the compulsion ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are we not dealing with a clause which provides for employment being given to unionists only ?


Mr Hughes - The clause does not say that.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the use of this evasion? This is not the Arbitration Court of New South Wales, but the High Court of Parliament. The clause says -

The Court . . . may . . . direct that as between members of organizations of employers or employees and other persons offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall be given to such, members, olher things being equal.


Mr Hughes - What does that mean?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It means that men may be forbidden, not merely to enter, but to remain in an employment because they are non-unionists. That has been done by the New South Wales Arbitration Court, acting under a similar provision.


Mr Hughes - Only after a lock-out, I think.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not after a lock-out.


Mr Glynn - The same thing occurred in New Zealand in connexion with the bootmakers' award.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I believe that there has been only one case in New South Wales so far. In the New South Wales Government Gazette. No. 534, of 13th October, 1903, is published an agreement between the Sydney and Suburban Master Bakers' Association and the New South Wales Operative Bakers' Association, which was made a common rule by the Court, and an extension allowed, which carried it considerably further than the original parties to the dispute. Clause 12 of the award reads as follows : -

Any non-unionist operative baker hereafter entering the employ of any member of the Industrial Union of Employers shall join the New South Wales Operative Bakers' Association at or before the end of one week from the date of his so entering the employment. Wherever a nonunionist applies to an employer for employment as an operative baker the employer shall inform him of this condition of the agreement.

That means that men who have been twenty years in the baking trade in New South Wales are absolutely forced, if they desire to continue at that employment, to become unionists.


Mr Hughes - It was open to them, when the common rule was about to be applied for, to ask for an exemption.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know that it was open to them under the New South Wales Act in the same way as it will be under the Bill. They probably did not receive notice.


Mr Watson - The Court decided by rule that it would not extend an agreement without notice.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In that case the non-unionists could have raised an objection. Whether they did or did not I do not know. If they did, the objection has been overruled. Here is the head note to another award -

A master undertaker may employ a non-unionist in a case of emergency, but cannot retain him permanently in his employ, without making r?asonable efforts to secure a competent unionist.


Mr Hughes - That seems perfectly right.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am only showing that these things have happened under the New South Wales Act, and may happen under the provision which I have read, which is practically the same as that in the State Act. It mav be said that without such a provision unionists . might be improperly dismissed from their employment; dismissed not for the manner of doing their work, or for unreliability, but for having chosen to take a certain attitude in the interests of themselves, or of their fellow-employes. But under the Bill, as it stands, a unionist might be dismissed for that reason. In any case, the onus of proof that he did not dismiss his employe except for good reasons other than the fact that the employe was a member of a union is cast upon the employer.


Mr Hughes - The honorable member is confusing two things. We are not now speaking of the dismissal of the unionist, but of his right to preference of employment.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; but the honorable member has himself suggested that unionists might be penalized.


Mr Hughes - Without this provision unionists might be penalized. The employer might say, " You have compelled me to pay higher rates of wages ; but I shall get even with you by dismissing you all."


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That could occur under the clause.


Mr Hughes - But having dismissed one set of unionists the employer would have to take another set of unionists.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No doubt the position of unionists is safeguarded, so far as it can be, by the Bill, whether they are members of political or non-political unions. In New Zealand the Government have been asked to give preference to unionists' in the railway service of that State, as will be seen by the following telegram from Wellington, dated 13th June : -

Replying to the request of a deputation of railway servants for the preference employment of unionists, Sir J. G. Ward said he could not see his way to grant the request. If he did such a thing, he would lay himself open to a charge of coercing men to join a society. It would be looked upon as very improper to say that a man who had been twenty years in the service should be dismissed, and one who might have been in only a year retained in preference.

That is the opinion of a gentleman who is a member of the Ministry which introduced the first Arbitration Bill in New Zealand. I understand that Mr. Seddon holds similar views.


Mr Watson - Neither of them disputes the clause that is in this Bill.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was not applied to the railways.


Mr Watson - It would apply to the railways if the Court thought fit.

Mr.DUGALD THOMSON.- But there is a special railway clause.


Mr Watson - There is a difference; but it does not arise in the way the honorable member suggests.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Here was a request made to the Government which was practically the author of the New Zealand measure, to do in connexion with the railways of that, country what can be clone under this Bill, and the Minister of Railways actually refused it. I come to the question raised by the Prime Minister, whether, considering the difficulties of the position, any. other proposal than that of making use of the trades unions - political or nonpolitical - for the purposes of this Bill, can be found. It seems to me that the issue at stake at any time is one between employers and employes. That must be so. Therefore, why should not the employes and employers - not a portion of them, but the whole of them within a certain industry - be the parties to the matter? I admit that in discussing this measure we are under a difficulty. If it applied only to disputes extending beyond a State, this provision for preference to unionists would not matter one way or the other. I think the Prime Minister will admit that it is inapplicable to disputes that extend from one State to another. But as the Bill in a great number of its clauses goes much further, and makes provision for this great industrial octopus taking hold of the industries of every State, Ave must consider the matter in that light. If it is found that that control can be obtained, and that practically the industries of every State will come under the management of the Commonwealth, we .should endeavour, at any rate within restricted areas, to have the question in dispute settled as between the whole of the employers an.lthe whole of the employes in an industry. We might limit the areas, as is done in New Zealand. Why should a portion of the employes or the employers settle a question of much moment to the whole of an industry ? Would it not be infinitely petter than that a trades union or than that some little group of employers should act for the whole, that the whole body themselves should act in connexion with the purposes of this Bill? Is that impossible? It might have been thought to be impossible when the first Conciliation and Arbitration Acts were introduced. But our business is to learn from experience. After eight years or so we ought to be able to make some improvements upon the original Conciliation and Arbitration Acts. In my opinion, it is not impossible. The alternative suggested could be more easily effected than the proposals of this Bill can be carried out. No doubt, one reason for naming the trades union as parties in the original .Act was that the unions had assets which could be dealt with if they raised unnecessary trouble by the Arbitration Court. But it would be possible to collect payments from the suggested organizations far more easily, and far more certainly, than it is possible to collect union subscriptions. The time of the Arbitration Court in New South Wales is occasionally considerably occupied with cases for the recovery of union subscriptions and fines.


Mr Hughes - There is no necessity for its being so; it arises from a defect in the Act


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know the reason, but it is so. If the whole of the employes within a given area in a particular industry were considered to be members of an organization, authority could be given by the Court to the employers to deduct an amount from their pay weekly. It would be a very trifling amount - nothing like the union subscription. It might be a halfpenny or a farthing in the pound on the wages paid, or it might be less. That amount could be deducted and paid into an employes' fund, under the control of the Court. The employers, of course, would be required to pay in an equivalent amount to an employers' fund.


Mr Hughes - An amount calculated on their turnover or profits?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Every employer who paid his men on a certain day in the week would deduct this little proportion, which might be fixed by the Court, and would hand that amount, with the names of those from whom it had been deducted, to an official of the Court.


Mr Hughes - Is this proposal made in lieu of organizations?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is made in answer to the Prime Minister's challenge in reference to the difficulty of providing any system to take the place of the unions. The parties immediately concerned in any dispute are the employers and the employes, and it is desirable to have all the employes and all the employers - not merely a portion of them - made parties to action, dispute, decision. The reason why the unions were made use of in the first place was that it is necessary to deal with bodies which have funds and a continual existence, and not with an unorganized mob. But in my opinion it is possible to constitute a body with a continual existence from the whole of the employes of an industry, and funds can be raised readily and simply by means of a small contribution deducted by the Court through the employers from the wages of the employes. The employer would pay in a similar amount as his contribution to the employers' fund.


Mr Spence - That is compulsory unionism.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member can call it what he likes. I call it compulsory organization for the purposes of this Bill, but not for any other purpose. I do not object to compelling people to do something for the good of the community, although I do object to compelling them to do something for the good of a section, and to the injury of the rest.


Mr Frazer - Does the honorable member propose to allow the employers to stop a portion of the employes' wages ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would allow the Court to do that; not the employers. The employer would only be the medium. Does not the honorable member propose to allow a trades union to take a much larger portion pf the employes earnings than I propose that the Court should take?


Mr Frazer - What amount would the honorable member desire to take?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be a trifling amount, as any one can see. If £60,000 were paid in wages in a city - and of -course much larger sums are paid weekly' in large cities like Melbourne or Sydney - a penny in the pound would raise £250 as the employes' fund, and £250 as the emplovers' fund. That is much more than would be required. A very small contribution would be required, because the purpose of it would be to do one thing, and one thing only, namely, to carry out the purposes of this Bill. Of course, there would be no question of preference for unionists then, because all the employes would belong to an organization. The Court also could regulate the associations and provide rules for them, including rules for the election of their governing bodies.


Mr Hutchison - Would the honorable member compel the employes to join ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They would be members by being employes. The Prime Minister admits that it' is desirable that the parties to a dispute should be not merely some of the employes and employers, but the whole of them. The only difference between the honorable gentleman and myself in that respect possibly is that he thinks it is impracticable to achieve that end, and that as a substitute we have to utilize trades unions. I am pointing out that, in my opinion, that is not necessary, and that it is possible to accomplish what is desired more readily and easily by recognising all the employes in an industry as an organization on the one side and all the employers on the other. No matter for whom a man worked, there would be under the sanction of the Court a trifling deduction from his wages, and the record and payment would constitute his sign manual as a member of the particular employes' organization. None of the objections that can be raised against the union proposal could be raised against that. For instance, the objection raised that employes might be harshly dealt with, because they were unionists, could not apply where all employe's are members of the organization, and the Court would not need to decide that none but unionists should be employed. Then, . under my proposal, the organization would be strictly confined to the purposes of the Bill, whereas, under the other scheme, the organization might be a political or benefit association, to which men might' be compelled to contribute in order to carry out objects to which they were absolutely opposed. I should like to point out that, apart altogether from the question of preferences to unionists, the clause provides for preferences of another kind. Under it any preference the Court might see fit to direct could be given to certain employers or employes. There is nothing to prevent the Court, if it were foolish enough - of course, the idea is absurd - from deciding that men under five feet ten inches in height should receive a preference. The Courts, both in New Zealand and New South Wales, have, under a similar provision, given decisions which I think are very unwise - if I may be allowed to say that of a Court's decisions - which may prove . exceedingly injurious to industry, and consequently to the Commonwealth. One of these decisions in New South Wales affects one of the largest bodies of men in that State. The Court decided that the last men to be taken on should be the first to be dismissed. That is to say, that if ten men were put on to-day they should, in the event of any slackness of work, be dismissed before those previously engaged.


Mr Spence - That is a very old custom in all industries.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Such a provision might operate very injuriously, because among any ten, or twenty, or 100 men who may be taken on at any given time, some may be found who are capable of rising to a good position, and of effecting improvements in the industry, and thus advancing it. Still, they would have to go, whilst much inferior men were retained. What would this mean to the men themselves? It would keep a body of men - the same body - constantly floating between work and wages and the borders of starvation. Is it fair to decree in regard to any particular body of workmen that, although they may be able to obtain work for a time, it is only for a time, as they must always be the first to go in the event of slackness of work?


Mr Watson - That practice is almost universal in private employment - other things being equal.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is not a case of other things being equal.


Mr Watson - The honorable member must recollect that in the case referred to the men were engaged on. piece work, and that, therefore, it was not quite so important as it might be in other cases that the employer should be allowed to pick and choose his men.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But it is important to the employer, and very often for the safety of the employes in a mine, that the best men should be retained.


Mr Frazer - A decision such as that indicated would prevent a number of relatives from being put on when a change of management occurred.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Perhaps so. Whilst the private employer ' would, of course, endeavour to retain desirable old hands, and very properly so-


Mr Hutchison - Many of them sack the old hands and take on younger men.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is speaking of employers of whom I have not had experience.


Mr Hutchison - -I know of many such as I describe.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - So far from that being the case with many employers, I know that they increase the rate of pay given to their old employes, in consideration of their long service. Although it is recognised that they do not earn the extra money perhaps iri a direct way, still they give compensation for it by bringing their long experience and acquired aptitude to bear. At any rate, such consideration is only reasonable when extended to old employes.


Mr Hutchison - Hear, hear.. I wish all employers would show the same spirit.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that most employers try to keep on their older hands, but when new men show special aptitude or ability, the industry will be advanced by their continued employment in preference to less desirable hands. Take, for instance, the case of the manufacture of porcelain and pottery. Some men by their special capacity and ability to design might lead to a large development of trade in Australia, and an increased manufacture, but under the rule now proposed the employer would not be free to make the choice when it became necessary to reduce the number of his workmen.


Mr Watson - The rule to which the honorable member refers has never been applied, so far as I am aware, except to the one case in which there was a uniform hewing rate for coal-getting, in which the men were engaged on piece-work at so much per ton.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thinkthere was another case ; but I shall accept the statement of the Prime Minister. One effect of that decision is that men who, in comparison with others, are less careful, and who are more given, say, to neglect the use of safety lamps, have' to be kept on.


Mr Webster - Is not the honorable member splitting straws?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable member think I am splitting straws when I refer to considerations relating to the safety of mines. I am only giving an illustration.


Mr Watson - Does the honorable member know that that rule was insisted upon by the miners and by the Court, because it was alleged that the management were attempting to weed out all the prominent unionists, and get rid of them? That was the allegation, and the Court., in order to prevent that kind of thing, decided thatunless incapacity could be proved the men must be put off in rotation.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am only mentioning that case as an illustration of one of the preferences that might be made. An infinite variety of preferences could be given, and that which I have mentioned is not the only one. As to the wisdom of that form of preference, we may differ.


Mr Watson - I do not say that I should approve of it in all cases.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I cannot profess to know all the circumstances of the case alluded to ; but I say that if the principle were generally applied it might seriously injure our industries. Under the clause a variety of preferences, quite apart from the question qf membership of the union, might be given. In my opinion, the Bill would have been a better one from the stand-point of its advocates if an advance had been made upon previous measures, and provision had been made for embracing the whole of the employers and employes within a certain area. If that had been done nearly all the objections I have spoken of to-day would have disappeared, and means would have been afforded for the satisfactory settlement of those difficulties between employers and employes, which we must all regret, and which we all desire to see removed. The very fact that all interests were represented in an organization would secure that reasonable average of opinion - as distinguished from the extreme views that are often entertained by small bodies, whether of employers or employes - which would more than anything else tend to the settlement of the industrial affairs of Australia. Such a proposal may be embodied in an amendment, but not at this stage. We shall probably have to recommit clause 4, and deal with the matter in connexion with the interpretation of the word " association." I do not say that this course will be adopted, but it may be. I have only outlined my proposal, in reply to the challenge thrown out by the Prime Minister, when he invited honorable members to suggest, anything that could be substituted for the recognition of the trades unions which have aims and objects entirely apart from the purposes which it is sought to achieve bv this Bill.







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