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Wednesday, 22 June 1904

Mr WATSON - It seems to me that, after all the attention which the honorable and learned member for Wannon has devoted to this provision, his concluding remarks show that he does not understand it even now. He states that it proposes a compulsory preference to unionists. It proposes nothing of the sort.

Mr Robinson - I am quite aware of that.

Mr WATSON - Why did the honorable and learned member say that it proposes a compulsory preference to unionists if he did not think so, or was aware to the con- .trary ?

Mr Kelly - What is it there for?

Mr WATSON - What it proposes is that the Court shall have power to give preference to unionists.

Mr Robinson - That means just the same.

Mr WATSON - It does not mean just the same, and if any one has studied the operation of the Act in either New South Wales or New Zealand he knows that it does not mean just the same, because the Court has exercised discretion in regard te the granting of preference to unionists.

Mr Johnson - But has it not been interpreted as a direction?

Mr Robinson - That is the whole point.

Mr WATSON - It has been departed from in a variety of instances. I regard this as one of the most important features of the Bill. The' Minister of External Affairs said last evening that unionists were asked to give up the only weapon that they possess. They are prohibited by legislation of this sort from striking, and thereby being able to take advantage of economic conditions to promote their own welfare. They are asked to give up that weapon absolutely, and to consent to be prohibited from taking advantage of it, even though circumstances might absolutely justify its use. On the other hand, is it not a fair thing, as the author of the New Zealand Act saw, to give to unionists in return for this surrender of a power at least a guarantee that, if they go before the Court, the men who have borne the heat and burden of the day, shall not be penalized at the sweet will of one individual ?

Mr Kelly - That is provided for in clause 10.

Mr WATSON - No. We attempt to provide for that when we say that men shall not be dismissed because they are unionists. Any honorable member who knows anything about the relations between employers and employed must admit that it is the easiest thing in the world to manufacture a reason why a man should be dismissed. Take my own trade in Sydney. I know two or three men who have been victimized by employers. Although no better or more conscientious workmen exist in the trade, yet a variety of reasons have been found for dismissing them. The simple truth is that the employers looked upon these men as agitators, and did not desire their services. We may provide that an employer shall give a good and sufficient reason for dismissing a man, and he may be able to do so without acknowledging that the real reason is that the man is a unionist, and as it is called an agitator. At the same time this man may not be an agitator at all, in the sense that our honorable members opposite understand the term, although he may be honestly fighting against oppression and injustice, and in favour of conditions which would be regarded as equitable by the community if they only understood the situation. We should give to such a man the only protection that can be given to him, and that is the protection of his fellowworkmen, who understand the position, and are able to say whether he is being victimized or not.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought that the Court was to be his protection ?

Mr WATSON - The Court will be a protection if it is given the necessary power, but some honorable members wish to take away from the Court that power.

Mr Lonsdale - No.

Mr WATSON - The honorable member says "No," but he is taking every step which works in the direction of taking from the Court the power to settle a dispute in that way.

Mr Lonsdale - To get the power for the Court to treat all alike.

Mr WATSON - The honorable member can make all sorts of altruistic professions, but they work out to nothing.

Mr Lonsdale - I have done as much for the workers as the honorable gentleman.

Mr- WATSON.-I have not alleged anything against the honorable member. So far as I know he has never given cause for the slightest reproach against himself. But I submit that all his professions of regard for the non-unionist are made at the expense of the man who is making the condition of the non-unionist bearable. To whom is the upraising of the workers as a class due? It is not due to the man who stands aloof from all reform and keeps away from his fellows, but to the man who sacrifices time, money, and prospects in order (hat some general good may be accomplished beyond even what might accrue to himself.

Mr Skene - How has the non-unionist benefited ?

Mr WATSON - In the general upraising of the workers as a class that has gone On throughout the old world, principally in England and in these States as well. Though it has been due to the unionist primarily and almost entirely, the nonunionist has benefited, and I do not begrudge him some benefit.

Mr- Skene.- How is it that he has not found it out before?

Mr WATSON - Because, like a large number of people who will always remain in the community, he has been absolutely blind to his own interests, because in manycases, the non-unionist has submitted to conditions not from choice but from necessity ; his stomach has been a factor in the consideration and he has been compelled to accept terms that his reason told him were not sufficient for the service which he was rendering.

Mr Robinson - Why do the unionists try to keep non-unionists out of the unions?

Mr WATSON - May I ask the honorable and learned member why does his organization keep out the man who wishes to practise law ? Why does this paid agitator come here and talk about stirring up strife - this gentleman, who is secretary to the Law Institute, that is prepared to pre'vent any competitor from coming into the field?

Mr Robinson - I claim your protection, sir, against a foul and contemptible attack upon me. The statement of the Prime Minister is absolutely incorrect.

Mr WATSON - Is not that true?

Mr McDonald - Parasites !

The CHAIRMAN - Will the honorable member for Kennedy keep order?

Mr Robinson - I ask your protection, sir.

The CHAIRMAN - I understand that the honorable and learned member for Wannon has risen to a point of order.

Mr Robinson - I ask your protection, sir, against the attack of the Prime Minister, who said that I am the paid agitator of an association which has been formed to keep men from joining the legal profession.

Mr McDonald - I rise to a point of order.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I must decide one point of order before I can take another.

Mr McDonald - But the point of order I wish to take refers to something which occurred previously.

The CHAIRMAN - Will the honorable member for Kennedy please take his seat?

Mr Robinson - It is absolutely incorrect to say that I am connected with an organization which, seeks to keep men from joining the legal profession.

Mr McDonald - I rise to order. I wish to- know if the honorable and learned member for Wannon is in order in saying that any statement made by the Prime Minister is a foul and contemptible falsehood? I wish the remark to be withdrawn.

Mr Robinson - I did not say that.

Mi. McDonald. - The honorable and learned member did say so.

The CHAIRMAN - Will the honorable member for Kennedy kindly resume his seat while I deal with the point of order ?

Mr McDonald - I want the remark to be withdrawn first.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member for Kennedy will find that I shall keep order. The honorable and learned member for Wannon complains of a statement made by the Prime Minister that he is a paid agitator.

Mr McDonald - That is not the statement I want withdrawn.

The CHAIRMAN - The statement is distasteful to the honorable and learned member, and therefore I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw it.

Mr McDonald - I ask for a ruling on the point of order that I raised.

Honorable Members. - Chair !

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