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Wednesday, 22 June 1904


Mr ROBINSON ( Wannon) - I agree that the question which the Committee is now discussing is one of the most important with which we have had to deal in connexion with this Bill ; and it is one to which, I apprehend, the fullest consideration that honorable members can give will not be objected to. For my part, I do not approve of the principle contained in the paragraphs now under discussion. I do not approve of the principle whereby this Parliament, or any Parliament, gives a preference in relation to employment to one class of men over other men who may be equally worthy. I hold that it is improper for this Parliament or any Parliament, to say to any workman, " "Unless you are a member of a certain union, your chance of earning your living will be less than it would be if you were a member of that organization." To my mind, such a law is an unwarrantable interference with the rights of individuals. Not that I am one of those who believe that compulsion is always wrong. I think that the compulsion of an individual, for the benefit of the majority of the whole community, is in many cases desirable. But I certainly do not think that it is desirable in the interest of the community to say to a certain number of men, " We will endeavour to make your task in- earning your living as hard as possible, unless you join a certain organization, which you do not wish to join of your own free will." That is the principle upon which this paragraph is founded. It is a provision which seeks to compel employes to enter organizations by putting disabilities upon them, if they do not join. A grave and serious disability is cast upon employes unless they become members of unions. The onus of proving that that is justified, and that the extreme measure proposed is warrantable, lies upon those who support it. I. think I can say without undue exaggeration that, so far, at any rate, as the weight of authority goes, it has been on the side of those who oppose the provision. In practice we find this principle to be very injurious in its effects. I have certain information which I propose to put before honorable members which will, I think, show that the actual working of a similar provision to this has produced mischief and injustice, and that, ' therefore, it is extremely likely that mischief and injustice will be produced if we pass the paragraph as it stands. It has been stated - I think that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was one of those who said so - that the Arbitration Court in New South Wales, and Arbitration Courts generally, do' not give a preference to unionists, unless there is some very grave special reason why that preference should be given ; such a reason as that the majority of the employes concerned are members of a union. I think I can prove conclusively that preference to unionists has been granted in New South Wales, where the unionists were not a majority of those affected by an industrial award. Thereby a minority has obtained a special privilege over a majority, the rights of the majority have been infringed, and the status of the minority has been improved by legislative act.


Mr Hughes - The honorable member's own union has, of course, certain privileges.


Mr ROBINSON - I am not aware of the existence of any union to which I belong. But I belong to a profession which any man can enter if he has the necessary brains and the necessary application. The Minister of External Affairs is one of the bright and shining examples of what industry and ability can effect in this respect. The same course as he has taken is open to every other honorable member. Even the honorable member for Melbourne Ports might, I believe, in course of time-in a long time, possibly - attain to such a position as the Minister of External Affairs has reached. I propose to give some instances to show that the contention that the principle of preference to unionists has always been exercised in favour of the majority of those affected is not correct. I wish firstto deal with the case of the bread-carters; and I may say that, for this purpose, I have carefully perused the reports of the New South Wales Court of Arbitration, and for every statement that I make relating to cases in New South Wales, I am prepared to give chapter and verse, when called upon. In that case the evidence showed - I am reading from the judgment - that the members of the union and the nonunionists in the bread-carting trade were about evenly divided.

The union, of course, claimed, as they claim in nearly every dispute that comes before the Court, a preference -

The union's claim was that the employer should only employ a non-union carter on condition that the said non-union carter joins the union within one month, at fees not exceeding 10s. nomination, and rs. per week.

That seems to me to be a grossly excessive sum to compel men to pay. As a matter of fact, preference was given to the unionists; and the result, therefore, was that a large number of men - an equal number of men with those who were in the union - were put at a disadvantage. But they were put at a further disadvantage. There was this important point in the judgment. It was decided that - any non-unionist carter hereafter entering the employ of the respondent - that is the employer - shall join the bread-carters' union at or before the end of one month from the date of his entering the employment, provided the entrance fee to the union does not exceed 5s., and the weekly contribution does not exceed 6d.

That is to say, while it was provided that any man hereafter going in for bread-carting should join the union, it was also provided that any non-unionist who went from one employer to another should join the union. The Judge said -

This condition does not apply to those who are already in employment; but to illustrate it, if a bread-carter in Mr. Langer's employ should apply to Mr. Law for employment, then Mr. Law would be bound to apply this condition to the bread-carter.

That - is to say,, the practical operation of this award is to force a man who is a bread-carter into a union whether he likes it or not. Whether the objects of the union -even its industrial objects - meet with his approval or not, he is to be forced into it. That was a 'case in which the union did not claim, and could not claim, that it represented a majority of those in the trade. All that it could claim was that it represented an equal number. Yet the unionists were given a preference - an improper preference, in my opinion - over those who were not members of the union. In the case of the dispute between the Barrier Branch of the Amalgamated Miners' Association and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which is reported in Volume II. oi the cases decided by the New South Wales Arbitration Court, the union claimed a preference. In this particular case the facts are striking, as showing to what lengths unions are prepared to go. The case against preference is set out by Mr. Cruickshank, on page 546, and the facts stated by him were agreed upon by all parties. Mr. Cruickshank says -

Respecting preference to unionists, I differ from my colleagues, and for the following reasons : - In this dispute, all the other issues were filed a long time before the hearing, and this particular demand for " preference " was never considered or thought of until after the Court arrived at Broken Hill, and was evidently the suggestion of somebody after the Court opened.

That is to say, this particular claim for preference was a readied-up claim, after the real crux of the matter had been put before the Court.

Therefore, the natural inference is (and such ' inference is supported by the evidence), that up to date there has been no trouble, and there would be no likelihood of any, provided things were allowed to remain undisturbed. There are about 6,000 men employed in or about the Broken Hill mines ; 4,000 are non-unionists, and 2,000 are members of the union.

Yet those 2,000 members of the union claimed preference over 4,000 non-unionists.


Mr Mauger - That is an ex parte statement.


Mr ROBINSON - It is a statement by the Court. The honorable member has been singing the praises of the Court for the last three weeks, but when a statement is made by the Court which tells against him, he will not take it on trust.


Mr Mauger - What did the Court decide ?


Mr ROBINSON - That there should be a preference to unionists. If the honorable member will look up the figures relating to trades unions, issued on authority by the Government Printer of New South Wales, he will find that the facts are as stated in this judgment - that the number of men in this union was a little over 2,000. Indeed, the facts stated in Mr. Cruickshanks judgment are admitted. It is a fact that is not denied that the unionists, were a minority ; and the figures issued by the New South Wales Government Printer, and certified by the Registrar of the Unions, show that the members of the Barrier Branch of the Amalgamated Miners' Association were only about one-third of the total number of the men employed in the mines.


Mr Poynton - Does the honorable mem-' ber say that there are 6,000 men employed ' there ?


Mr Hughes - What did the Judge say?


Mr ROBINSON - The Judge gave a preference to unionists in that case. All that I am endeavouring to prove from these facts, is that a preference is frequently given to a minority. That is my whole position upon this point. That is to say, a minority of the employes obtained a preference over the majority. If the honorable gentleman still doubts the statement, and thinks that a member of the Court was lying, I will refer him to the figures taken from the reports issued by the Registrar of Trades Unions, which show that the Barrier Branch of the Amalgamated Miners' Association had 1,200 members in 1002. In September, 1.903, they had about 2,000 members. As an honorable member appears to doubt my statement that there were 6,000 men employed in the mines, I may state that I find that the President of the Court - the Judge - says, in his very opening sentences, that " about 6,000 men are simultaneously employed at the mines" - proving my statement to be absolutely correct. In that case, I say again, a preference was given to a union which included only a minority of those employed in. the industry. Then there was the case of the New South Wales Saddle and Harness Makers' Trades Society.' The members of that industrial union obtained a preference. . At the time of the award, in 1903, the union embraced 208 members all told. The total number of men working for employers who had over five hands engaged was 550; but as the award applied to all employers, even though they only kept one hand at work, the award affected between 1,000 and 1,500 men. Therefore, the 208 members of the- union secured a preference over a large majority of the workmen engaged in the trade. These three- cases establish the proposition which I have been endeavouring to prove, namely, that in a number of cases preference has been given to unionists who represent only a small minority of the employes. Another reason why I object to preference being given to unionists is that when undue power is placed in the hands of any class or section of the community, or in the hands of individuals, there is an ineradicable tendency to use it oppressively. History teems with examples in proof of this assertion, and the records of the trades unions offer no contradiction. The preference for unionists has been used in the most cruel and unjust fashion in New South Wales, and I propose to quote some cases in order that the significant facts may be brought within the knowledge of the Committee. I shall first refer to that magnificent organization which extends over the whole of Australia, and which is presided over lay the Minister of External Affairs -

Aloft in awful state the godlike hero sits, would probably describe his manner of presiding over them. The Wharf Labourers' Union, of which we know the honorable and learned member is very proud, obtained a preference for its members over nonunionists. I am not now discussing whether or not such preference could be justified on any grounds. Possibly it might be justified, because the. honorable and learned member belonged to the union.


Mr Hughes - Does the honorable and learned member know that, so far as Sydney is concerned, there were no wharf labourers outside the Wharf Labourers' Union ?


Mr ROBINSON - When ?


Mr Hughes - Before the award was given there were none.


Mr ROBINSON - This precious AVharf Labourers' Union wished to hamper, as far as possible, the admission of individuals into its ranks. That is the only way in which we can read their application to the Arbitration Court in December, 1902. We know that since then the union has endeavoured to prevent men from joining it. The facts of the case are set out in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, signed by W. Briggs and J. Crameri. These men afterwards made affidavits that were filed in the Arbitration Court. Their letter reads as follows : -

Finding, since the constitution of the Arbitration Court, that preference regarding all work must be given to unionists, I and others were desirous of becoming members of the above union, so as to-be able to continue working without being molested as non-unionists, as the Wharf Labourers' Union covered the work that we were following up at the time. I, therefore, with four others, proceeded to the union meeting room to have ourselves proposed as members, and to pay the entrance-fee and yearly subscription, which amounts to £1 in all; 10s. for entrance, and 10s. for a year's subscription in advance.

Well, when we made application at the door for admission, we were told that we would not be able to join; I asked the reason why, and I was told that the books were closed against the admission of any new members whatever. When asked as to how long they were likely to be closed, I was told by the doorkeeper that he could not tell me.

Well, sir, . we tried several times for admission after this, and always received the same answer at the door from the man in charge. I then thought that the best thing to do would be to go and see the secretary himself at his office in Erskine-street, which I forthwith did on the following day. I asked him if there was any chance of joining the union so as I could continue on with my work, and he said no, there was not, as the books were closed, and he did not know when they would be opened ; in fact, he said we had no hope of joining, thereby absolutely prohibiting us from earning a livelihood, while our employer then was and is still wiling for us to work, if we could only manage to obtain the union medal, without which no man,- be he ever so good a citizen, let alone a native of the land he lives in, can do any work in this lovely city of ours called Sydney. I may here state also that I put the question to Mr. Harrison, the secretary of the Wharf Labourers' Union, viz. : - " Is your union legally justified in closing their books in this manner, to the utter exclusion of all men desirous of becoming members?" The answer I received was : " That is for you to find out." He then turned on his heel and left me. That was all the satisfaction we got from him, when asking for what we deem is the right of every citizen of this labour-ridden State - the right to become members of any labour union, should we desire it, and were willing to pay the ruling fees as to entrance. The Arbitration Court says that employers must give preference to unionists under a penalty, therefore, that being the case, no man should be debarred from qualifying himself as a unionist if he so wishes.

Subsequently affidavits were made and filed in the Arbitration Court, and on Monday last Wm. Briggs, Joseph Crameri, and George Holmes, in their affidavits, stated that -

In February they together proceeded to the registered meeting room of the union in St. Philip's Schoolroom, Church Hill, Sydney, having previously arranged with Charles Jackson, a financial member of the union, to propose their admission to membership and arrange a seconder. Thev applied for admission, but were informed that they would not be able to join, and that the books were closed to the admission of any new members whatsoever. Holmes and Briggs attended several times at later meetings, to be told on each occasion that the books were closed.

When these facts came before the Court, it expressed itself as astounded at the monstrous injustice of the union presided over by the Minister of External Affairs, and ordered that the books should be opened, and that new members should be put on the books without the necessity of an election or a ballot of any kind whatever. The Court stated that the union had practically admitted that it had committed a wrong, because about three weeks previ,ously it had opened its books. So that it is clear it kept the books closed for a considerable time for the express purpose of debarring certain men from earning their living, and only opened them when it was forced to do so.


Mr Hughes - Does the honorable and learned member know that the members of the Seamen's Union, and of the Waterside Labourers' Federation, numbering 11,000, could transfer to the Wharf Labourers' Union at any time?


Mr ROBINSON - What is the use of saying '.hat the members of another union could join the wharf labourers' organization ? What I say is that the union has endeavoured to take the bread out of the mouths of men who were not unionists.


Mr Hughes - Is not the bread taken out of the mouths of the unionists if others get the work?


Mr ROBINSON - One class should not have a preference over another. The unionists were endeavouring to prevent those outside their organization from earning a living, and the judgment of the Court that their action was tyrannical and unjustifiable, affords conclusive proof that I was correct in my contention. Now I wish to refer to a very extraordinary case, in order to show that if too great a" power is given to any individuals or groups of individuals they are bound to use it oppressively if they get a chance. It is the old story that " eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." I refer to the case of the boat Kiama. The steamer Kiama belongs to the Kiama Road Metal Company, and is usually employed in bringing road metal to Sydney. She was recently chartered by the Southern Coal Owners' Association to load a cargo of coal, to be discharged into the s.s. Wyandra. When the Kiama arrived, the Coal Lumpers' Union refused to carry the coal, on the ground that the men usually engaged in discharging metal were nonunionists. The objection was based, not on the ground that the coal-lumpers were required to work with non-unionists, but on the fact that the men usually engaged in discharging road metal were nonunionists. The owners of the Kiama had engaged members of the Coal Lumpers' Union to discharge the coal ; but when the boat arrived they refused to do the work. The men usually employed in discharging metal had, some months previously, tried to join the union, and paid the entrancefees. They were told, however, by the unionists, that they would be blackballed, because the union was determined not to admit more members ; hence they . withdrew their applications. Now, as I wish to be fair, and to give both sides in this matter, I shall read the full official answer given by the secretary of the Coal Lumpers' Union, Mr. A. D. McDonald. This letter will show to what straits some people are driven in order to justify an improper position.


Mr Page - Could what the honorable member has described take place under thisBill ?


Mr ROBINSON - Yes.


Mr Page - I say, absolutely, no.


Mr ROBINSON - Mr. McDonald writes as follows: -

Permit me to contradict the statement made by the acting secretary of the Southern Coal Owners' Asociation, re the blackballing of the non-unionists who work in -the steamer Kiama, by the Sydney Coal Lumpers' Union. When that steamer first came to Port Jackson,- and was about to enter into the coal trade, I, in company with other officers of this union, used every endeavour to get the non-union men, who followed the steamer Civility (of the same firm as the Kiama), to join the union. The men, after a great deal of persuasion, promised to join, and went so far as to be nominated, when all at once they found out that the union rate of wages would not be paid, and, when they had joined the union, their services might be dispensed with, other non-unionists being got to do the work, thereby leaving them on the already overcrowded labour market to do the best they could.

Now, sir, I must characterize this statement of the acting secretary of the Owners' Association as nothing more or less than a misrepresentation of the position. These men never came up for ballot, although nominated, so therefore could not have been blackballed.

With reference to the discharging of the Kiama, I may point out that the members of this union have too long been made a convenience of by stevedores, and are always first to maintain industrial peace and existing conditions with all employers. This does not give the acting secretary of the Owners' Association much credit for such misleading statements to the public. I am, &c,

A.   D. McDonald,

Secretary The Sydney Coal Lumpers' Union.

June 2.


Mr Bamford - What has the Court done since ?


Mr ROBINSON - The Court had no jurisdiction. In the first place, the secretary of the Coal Lumpers' Union has made a number of statements, which, as I shall show, are absolutely incorrect. He stated that the men found out that the union rate of wages would not be paid. That is wholly untrue. Then be said that they feared that when they had joined the union their services might be dispensed with, and that other nonunionists would be got to do the work. That again is absolutely untrue. Members, of this union were the only persons who desired that the services of these men should he dispensed wilh. I propose to read some extracts from a letter written by Mr. Salmond, managing director of the Kiama Road Metal Company, and published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6th inst., and also from a letter sent to the same journal by Mr. F. J. Thomas, the charterer of the steamer in question. Mr. Thomas in dealing with the Kiama episode, wrote -

Firstly, I did not assert the Kiama non-unionists were blackballed at a ballot, but, being nominated for membership, they withdrew at the last moment for the best of reasons - that a propgrtion of them would undoubtedly be blackballed (an indignity they could not be'expected to submit to), and they with the instincts of true manhood, loyally stood by each other and withdrew their nominations. Officials of the union on being asked if, in the event of a proportion of these sixteen men (some of whom had served Mr. Salmond, of the Kiama Road Metal Co., for fourteen years, others for eight years, and by dexterity, sobriety, and faithful services have proved their efficiency ; also having wives and families to support) being rejected by the union, although possessing all these qualifications as efficient workmen, would they expect the Kiama Road Metal Company to dismiss these rejected ones, and replace them by present members of the union, admitted that must of necessity be the result. No honorable employer, appreciating the value of faithful and efficient workmen, could so degrade his manliness as to treat men like that.

I think most honorable members will agree with the sentiment expressed in the last sentence. The letter continues -

Secondly, I have to-day seen the contract made between the Kiama Road Metal Company and the stevedore engaging these men, which expressly stipulates that union rates of wages must be paid to the workmen, which contract was in force at the time these men applied for admission ; which fact entirely subverts the secretary's statement that all at once they found out the union rates of wages would not be paid, and on becoming unionists their services would be dispensed with. The simple truth of the matter is that the employers desired the men to join the union, and gave every encouragement to do so.

Lastly. Regarding the episode of discharging the Kiama, while giving due credit to the patience and long suffering of the union in waiting for a favorable opportunity, and recognising the fine sense of equity and justice displayed by them in maintaining industrial peace, and existing conditions with all employers, still I might be pardoned if I suggest what might have conduced more to that end.

This steamer had carried cargoes of coal for us before, within the last few weeks. Union men were always engaged to handle it, and I heard no objection raised, or any intimation that it was not working to the satisfaction of the coal lumpers. Then, without previous warning, industrial war is declared, and in the most arbitrary manner, we (having in all good faith engaged a steamer under contract to supply another shipping concern with coal for a mail steamer) are compelled to break that engagement and have a chartered steamer thrown on our hands, together with a cargo of coals, banned against discharge, a position absolutely without remedy, from which we were rescued only by the generous conduct of the proprietor in buying the coal for himself, and releasing us of the engagement of freight.


Mr Knox - Did this occur after the passing of the New South Wales Arbitration Act?


Mr ROBINSON - Yes; it occurred at the end of May or the beginning of the present month. I do not wish to lay any stress on the loss which- the employer was compelled to suffer, because I recognise that a consideration of that kind would not receive much sympathy in certain quarters.

But I would lay special stress on the injustice done to other workers. The letter from Mr. Salmond, managing director of the Kiama Road Metal Company, set forth that-

Previous to the arrival of the s.s. Kiama from Glasgow in December, 1902, the gang of lumpers working the steamer Civility with stone cargoes were advised by our stevedore and by myself personally to endeavour to become members of the Coal Lumpers' Union, because we intended to work the new steamer in the coal and stone trade as business offered. With that object in view, eight of the gang went up for nomination, and paid their entrance fees. Prior to the 'allotted period - a fortnight before the ballot - elapsing one of the gang had a conversation with a friend as to his proposer and seconder, and he was told that if any individual members of the union acted prominently they would afterwards be debarred from work,' and as a matter of fact the men say that there was evidently no intention of the union accepting them as members. At any rate, it was asserted that there would be a few of them refused on account of the action they took during the 1890 strike by working this company's vessels then.

Another of the men was told that whoever were accepted as members of the union would have to leave the s.s. Kiama and " stand on the corner and take his chance with the rest." On these conditions the men naturally withdrew their applications. This company contracts with a stevedore to discharge cargo, and has a properly drawn out agreement and specifications as to the manner in which work has to be performed. One of the clauses of the specification reads thus : - " Current and, union rate of wages to be paid to the workmen employed by the contractor. If it shall at any time be proved to the satisfaction of the manager that a lesser rate than the union rate has been paid to . the workmen employed, and the contractor refuses to pay such rates, then the manager shall be at liberty to cancel the contract." The stevedore employs constantly sixteen men. These men have been under my supervision for from eight to fourteen years, and are as good a gang of men as can be found anywhere, and will compare against an . equal number of picked men from the union. The stevedore is classed by the men to be as fair as any man can be. The men in conversation with me state that they make more money in the Kiama than they would under any union rules. I say that Mr. McDonaldis simply juggling with the word "nomination," for the nomination is only the preliminary.

With reference to what occurred on Monday, 30th May, when the steamer Kiama was ready to discharge cargo to the steamer Wyandra, the union lumpers refused to work, although on several previous occasions they had done so. We were taken wholly by surprise. In an interview with Mr. McDonald - who is the secretary of the Coal Lumpers' Union - at 2.30 p.m. on that day, I begged of him to reconsider the position, as I would guarantee that the men would join if the union would accept them. He said he had just come from an executive meeting called to consider the case, and his men had agreed that the Kiama must work union, which literally meant that I would have to discharge sixteen able-bodied men, who have worked under me for from eight to fourteen years, and employ sixteen men from the union, whom I had never seen before. Had I taken the . line of least resistance I would have told my sixteen men to clear out, their only fault being that the Lumpers' Union would not accept them as members. My company was put to very great expense, and the difficulties I had to contend with cannot be treated of in the dimensions of such a letter as you would publish.

This is a further proof of the injustice that may be perpetrated when the advantage of an unduly strong position is given to members of a union. This was a deliberate attempt to prevent a number of men from earning a livelihood, and a deliberate

I attempt, which, unfortunately, was successful, to inflict a heavy financial loss on an employer who had for a number of years employed a number of sober and reputable workers.


Mr Watson - Is the honorable and learned member aware that this practice was, unfortunately, in force for a number of years before the New South Wales Act came into operation?


Mr ROBINSON - What practice?


Mr Watson - The practice of preventing any one outside a union from working the traffic, and also of refusing admission to new members for a considerable period. The facts referred to by the honorable and learned member are no argument against the Act.


Mr ROBINSON - The honorable gentleman does not see the point.


Mr Watson - I certainly do.


Mr ROBINSON - These men were nol asked to work alongside non-unionists.


Mr Watson - Quite so.


Mr ROBINSON - But having entered into a contract to unload a boat in which none but themselves would be concerned, they said to the employer, "We will not do this work, because at some previous time you had non-unionists working for you."


Mr Watson - That is no argument against the Act.


Mr ROBINSON - It is an evidence of absolute oppression, and every honorable member who values his liberty, and the liberty of his fellow citizens, should endeavour to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.


Mr Watson - The practice came into operation before the New South Wales Act came into existence.


Mr ROBINSON - The honorable gentleman, and those who support him, are now endeavouring, to give a preference te the organization which was guilty of thu practice, in order that its position may be made stronger than ever.


Mr Watson - No.


Mr ROBINSON - If this provision is rot designed to place unions and unionists in a stronger position than ever, what is its object? Is it intended to weaken or strengthen their position?


Mr Watson - To give the Court the power.


Mr ROBINSON - It has been placed in the Bill for only one purpose - to strengthen the hands of one section of the community. Any one can see that that is so.


Mr Watson - Any one like trie honorable and learned member can do so.


Mr Lonsdale - The Prime Minister can also see that that is the object of the provision He is not so thick-headed as he would have us believe.


Mr ROBINSON - I wish to show the' arbitrary way in which this preference system frequently works by quoting one or two decisions of the New South Wales Arbitration Court. The first is In re Bull, reported in volume 2, part IV., page 335, of the New South Wales Arbitration Reports. It deals with the position of undertakers - a subject about which some honorable members were disposed to be facetious when it was previously under discussion, although I do not know why men engaged in the undertaking trade should not have the privileges that are accorded to others. The heading of the case reads as follows : -

Under the preference clause in the undertakers' award, an employer, except in cases of emergency, is not justified in engaging a non-unionist without applying to the secretary of the employes' union to ascertain whether any competent union labour is available.

That is to say, an employer is not to engage the best man he can obtain, but is to interview the secretary of the employes union and ascertain whether he can take on a man. The facts of this case disclose a very harsh proceeding. A man who was riot a unionist was engaged, and an endeavour was made to induce him to join the union. He took steps to do so, but occupied a little more time than he should have done in arranging the preliminaries. On the first occasion' that he proposed to join he did not have sufficient funds to pay the necessary contribution, but a few days later he was proposed as a member. His employer, however, was brought before the Court for employing a non-unionist, and was punished for the offence. I shall now refer to the case of In re Byrnes, reported in the same volume, page 349. The heading sets forth that-

A master undertaker may employ a nonunionist in a case of emergency, but cannot retain him permanently in his employ without making reasonable efforts to secure a competent unionist.

In other words, a man may employ a nonunionist in order' to tide himself over an emergency, but as soon as that emergency has passed the man who has assisted him is to be dismissed and a unionist engaged. This was an extremely harsh case. A coachman employed to take charge of a hearse had suddenly to leave his employment, and as there was a funeral to be carried out on the day of his departure, it was necessary to at once engage somebody to take his place. It was decided that in employing a non-unionist for the day in question he had not transgressed the law, but for continuing to retain him after the emergency had passed he was held to be only one remove from a criminal, and was fined, notwithstanding that he had sent the man to the secretary of the union and, had personally called on that officer, and endeavoured to get the man into the organization. It will thus be seen that a provision of this kind leads to oppression.


Mr Kelly - These cases occurred under an exactly similar provision in the New South Wales Act.


Mr ROBINSON - This case was brought under a section of the Act in which preference is given to a unionist. As an example of the way in which a trade may be injured and hampered- by such a provision as this, let me quote the case of the Journeymen Coopers v. The Vacuum Oil Company, reported in vol. 2, part III., page 253. The Vacuum Oil Company imports kerosene from America, and large quantities of the liquid are placed in casks. I suppose that every honorable member who has ever had a barrel of liquid in his possession knows that, owing to the weather and other causes, hoops sometimes become loose. The -Vacuum Oil Company had the temerity to employ a boy at a wage of something like £1 per week to go round with a hammer and tighten the loose hoops, and for that the Company was brought before the Arbitration Court, which held that a duly licensed cooper must be employed, and that that cooper must be a member of the union. I also wish to refer to the case of the Southern Collieries Proprietors' Association, reported in volume 2, part r, page 8. This was the case in which it was ruled, as it seems to me in absolute opposition to all reason and justice, that the last to come should be the first to go - that the man who had had the least employment' should be " thrown out " first. That plea was put forward by the secretary of the union, Mr. Ritchie, who wrote the mine-owners a letter, in which notice was given that in the future, when it became necessary to shorten hands the miners would insist that the last to come should be the first to go. . Mr. Ritchie appears to be an individual who required severe checking by the Court. He made grossly untrue statements, which he got published in the daily press, and he had to apologize to the Court, by whom he was severely censured, for' making those statements with a view to influence the decision. This shows that the legalization of preference to a union of this kind must lead Fo the further oppression of those who happen to be out of the organization. It shows how this claim for preference must work; and in this connexion I desire to refer to two cases relating to musicians. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat stated yesterday that he intended to propose an amendment providing that unions must have rules under which facilities are given for the admission of new members.


Mr Deakin - An amendment providing for facilities for the admission of new members, for no interference by administration with admission being given effect to, and, further, for continuance of membership without oppressive treatment.


Mr ROBINSON - In regard to the last point of oppressive treatment, I think I can show the Committee the necessity for some very stringent legislation. There have been cases in which unions, to whom no preference has been given by the Court, have endeavoured to make matters extremely unpleasant for individuals who were not members. The musicians, who delight us at the theatres with their overtures, appealed against Mr. J. C. Williamson for an order giving preference to members of their union ; but the Court refused to make such an order, and dismissed the petition. That, however, did not worry the members of the union, who proceeded to take other steps. There was a member of .the union who played in an orchestra in which a man was employed who had committed the heinous crime of not joining a union ; and because of this the member of the union was fined, by the Musicians' Union, 5s. for playing with a non-unionist. He was sued before the Arbitration Court, and the Court enforced the fine with costs. It is, therefore, evident that some provision must be made to prevent any action of that kind in the future If this power be left to the unions uncontrolled-


Mr Poynton - A lawyer may do much worse and get off scot free.


Mr ROBINSON - That may be the honorable member's experience; it is not mine. In this particular case the sole reason that the Musicians' Association asked for a preference was most amusing. Because Mr. J. C. Williamson-


Mr McDonald - Who had to "back down " eventually.


Mr ROBINSON - Because Mr. J.C. Williamson employed in his Sydney orchestra two Victorians, who were members of the Victorian union but not of the New South Wales union, the latter asked the Court to give a preference. When beaten on that point, the New South Wales Musi'cians' Union made it as " hot " as possible for any man who played with a nonunionist.


Mr Thomas - Is a Sydney barrister allowed to plead in a Victorian Court ?


Mr Watson - That would certainly not be allowed.


Mr Tudor - That is a cruel question to ask.


The CHAIRMAN - I have several times asked for order ; but it seems -to me that no attention is paid to the request. It is absolutely necessary, in order that the business may be done expeditiously as well as thoroughly, that attention should be givento the remarks of an honorable member who is addressing the Chair. I ask every honorable member to assist me in keeping order, 50 that we may get on with the business. I may point out that we are in Committee, and if any honorable member hears any remark to which he would like to reply, the proper time is when he gets his opportunity to address (he Committee.


Mr ROBINSON - I was about to say' that some very stringent provision, such as the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has indicated, is necessary in order to prevent the oppressive treatment of men' who have, notwithstanding the disabilities placed on them, refused to enter unions. This is a matter to which I think the Committee should give their most serious attention. The Minister of External Affairs was, as usual, very entertaining yesterday when defending this particular clause; but we extracted from him a promise tha't the. Government would insert a provision against persons being prevented from joining unions. I am glad to see repentance even at this late stage.


Mr Watson - That remark is most unfair ; I expressed the same opinion fourteen years ago. .


Mr ROBINSON - I am glad to see that the remarks of the Judge of the Arbitration Court are to bear good fruit, even in this Bill. Of course, we are told that this provision is the very essence of the measure, but we have been told that so often in regard to so many other clauses, that one scarcely knows whether or not to believe the statement. The Minister of External Affairs dwelt at great length on the enormous sacrifices which unions are making under the Bill, and on the little they ask in return. It is most extraordinary that if the unions are making such enormous sacrifices, they should be besieging Parliament to permit them to do so- If the unions did not think they were going to get a great deal more than they give, they would not be in favour of the Bill for one moment ; nor would any one else, because it is only human nature for men to endeavour to obtain the best they can for themselves. The Minister of External Affairs told us that, under the Bill, a unionist could not decline to work with a non-unionist. I presume the same was said in New South Wales; yet in the case of the musicians, we see that a man was actually fined 5s., with £1 rs. costs, for working with a non-unionist. In the Kiama case, unionists actually refused to work, not because they were asked to work with non-unionists, but because nonunionists had previously been employed on the vessel. We are told further that unionists cannot, in a body, refuse to work; but that seems rather a wide assertion which the Minister would do well to moderate. I think it was pretty well laid down in the Teralba case, that all that was necessary was for unionists to give a fortnight's notice, in which case they could leave in a body. All that unionists give up is the right to leave their employment without notice, and nothing on earth can stop them from exercising that right, short of dragooning, and I do not suppose that that is proposed.


Mr Hughes - Employers have exactly the same right.


Mr ROBINSON - An employer has the right to shut up his works and 'allow his machinery to rust.


Mr Hughes - An employer may discharge each employ^ if adequate notice be given.


Mr ROBINSON - In this respect there is no comparison whatever between' employer and employed. An employer's machinery must, in the vast majority of cases, be kept in use if he desires to maintain his position. We were told, further, by the Minister that non-unionists suffer no disability under this clause. If that be so, why have unions in the particular cases which have come before the New South Wales Arbitration Court, asked that there shall be a disability? Why have unions asked for special preference ? It is- because they desire, when work is short, that they shall have the most, and nonunionists the least, advantage.


Mr Poynton - Has a union ever done the honorable and learned member a personal injury ?


Mr ROBINSON - No. When men have discussed the question with me, and have asked my opinion, I have always advised them to join unions, which, it seems to me, have, in Great Britain and in Australia, done most valuable work, and, I think, will do much valuable work in the future. But what I object to is compulsory preference given by Act of Parliament. It is wrong that members of a union should by law have an advantage over men outside - that men who do not wish to belong to unions should be forced to join. Large numbers of men in Victoria receive benefits from friendly societies. The society to which I belong, the A.N.A.. comprises thousands of workmen, as also does the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows. Members of such societies want no financial benefits which trades unions can offer, because -their own associations are far stronger financially, and have their funds invested in the most careful fashion. Why, therefore, should men, who do not desire sick benefit or other similar advantages, be forced by this Bill into joining a union, when they prefer to retain their individual liberty?


Mr Poynton - What does the A.N.A. do for wages, in any case?


Mr ROBINSON - The A.N. A. does not profess to do anything for wages, but to provide for men in their hour of sickness, and for widows in their hour of need. It does not follow that those who object to this provision say that every act of a union must be* oppressive and unjust. We do - say, however, that to make a discrimination in favour of either employers or employed must have an injurious, effect. I firmly believe that if the majority of employers were, for the time being, put in the position of workmen, and given a preference, they would act just as tyrannically as the workmen propose to do. We who oppose this provision say there is a great principle at stake; that this is an undue interference with individual liberty ; that the Bill endeavours to take away from men the right to earn their living as best they can. In our opinion, the Bill gives to a section, and, as I have shown in the cases quoted, a small section, an undue advantage over men who are not members of an organization. A few months ago a special Commissioner from the Department of Commerce and Labour, Washington, U.S.A., visited Australia, and wrote a report on the labour conditions and the Arbitration Act of New Zealand. He discussed that Act exhaustively, and wound up with these words, which seem to me words of common sense, applicable to the present circumstances : -

The right to remain at work where others have ceased to work, or to engage anew in work which others have abandoned, is part of the personal liberty of a citizen that can never be surrendered, and every infringement there of merits, and should receive, the stern denouncement of the law. All government implies restraint, and it is not less, but more, necessary in self-governed communities than in others, to compel restraint of the passions pf men which make for disorder and lawlessness.

Our language is the language of a free people, and fails to furnish any form of speech by which the right of a citizen to work when he pleases, for whom he pleases, and on what terms he pleases, can be successfully denied. The commonsense of our people, as well as the common law, forbids that this right should be assailed with impunity. It is vain to say that the man who remains at work while others cease to work, or takes the place of one who has abandoned his work, helps to defeat the aspirations of men who seek to obtain better recompense for their labour, and better conditions of life. Approval . of the object of a strike, or persuasion that its purpose is high and noble cannot sanction an attempt to destroy the right of others to a different opinion in this respect, or to interfere with their conduct in choosing to work upon what terms and at what time and for whom it may please them to do so.

In discussing this very question as . to whether the unionist should have preference over the non-unionist, the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission, appointed by President Roosevelt to settle one of the most gigantic strikes in America, said -

The right thus to work cannot be made to depend upon the approval or disapproval of the personal character and conduct of those who claim to exercise this right. If this were otherwise then those who remain at work might, if they were in the majority, have both the right and power to prevent others, who choose to work, from doing so. This all seems too plain for argument. Common-sense and common law alike denounce the conduct of those who interfere with this fundamental right of the citizen. The assertion of the right seems trite and common-place, but ,that land is blessed where the maxims of liberty are common-places.

That is the position which I, and those who think with me, take up in this matter. We have no objection, at any rate, I can honestly say that I have no objection to unionism per se. I like to see any organization of men, banded for the common object of improving their own condition and that of those around them, succeed. But I do object, and I enter my most fervent protest, against a proposal which seeks to give preference to one set of men over another, which says to a certain set of men, " If you join a union, or an organization, we shall take care that you shall have the best chance of earning your bread; but if you remain outside that organization we shall make it hard for you to earn your bread."

He that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

That is the principle underlying this compulsory preference to unionists - a principle which strikes at the individual liberty of the subject, gives a wicked and unjust preference to one class, makes it more difficult for another class to earn its living, and is not founded on justice or equity.







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