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Wednesday, 22 June 1904

Mr MAUGER (Melbourne Ports) - I take an altogether different view from that of the honorable and learned member for Angas, as to the necessity and value of the proposal we are now discussing. My experience of the Factories Act in Victoria is that it is most effective, and continuously effective, when backed up by strong, active, vigilant trades unions. I am quite sure that many of the advantages of that Act would not be reaped by those in whose interests it was framed unless there were powerful trade organizations watching it closely. An army of inspectors would be required to make the Act effective were not trades unions zealously taking care that its provisions are carried into effect. The proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney would create machinery for collecting subscriptions from those directly interested.


Mr MAUGER - But beyond that there would not be any organization.

Mr- DugaldThomson.: - Oh. yes, there would.

Mr MAUGER - In what- way ? Who would elect the officers ?


Mr MAUGER - Who would watch its interests ?


Mr MAUGER - Well, then, it would be a more comprehensive trades union, and there would be greater compulsion than the Bill proposes.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Hear, hear; but only for one object.

Mr MAUGER - How would the honorable member confine such an organization to one object ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course, that could be done.

Mr MAUGER - Let us suppose for a moment that the whole of the men in the engineering trade in New South Wales, or in Australia, were compelled to subscribe 6d. per week.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not 6d. ; nothing like that amount-

Mr MAUGER - Then let us suppose that the men were compelled to pay 1d. per week -for the purposes of this Bill. That1d. would not only provide means for carrying out the provisions of the measure, but would make those men members of the engineers' organization.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The money collected would go into Court.

Mr MAUGER - What is to prevent the organization at any time resolving to use its power for any political or social purpose the majority of members may decide?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because the registration as an organization would be cancelled.

Mr MAUGER - By whom?


Mr MAUGER - Would not the Registrar cancel an organization such as we are proposing if it were used for illegitimate purposes ?


Mr MAUGER - Already the Arbitration Court in New South Wales has compelled one organization to strike out a rule which made the object of that organization political.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Court struck out a rule which made it necessary to contribute to the election expenses of parliamentary candidates.

Mr MAUGER - That shows plainly that the Court has supervision, and is likely to exercise it. I hold that the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney is impracticable; it is useless for the objects of this Bill, and will prove a means of enabling employers to do for men what men ought to do for themselves. As to the objections raised in connexion with the operation of the provision, I should like to direct attention to what Judge Backhouse said on the point. It is very remarkable that the striking report of Judge Backhouse has not been quoted before, but it is alluded to in Mr.' Wise's speech, which has been quoted in the course of the discussion. Mr. Wise directed attention to the fact that Judge Backhouse lays it down distinctly that no harm has come from the provision, that many employers are in favour of it, and that- the objections are only' sentimental objections on the part of a nuniber of employers who are opposed to the principle. Judge Backhpuse said-

An ordinary workman hesitates, moreover, to make an application which marks him as incompetent. It is always provided in awards that, where unionists and non-unionists are employed, they shall work in harmony. Safeguarded in these ways, the granting of preference, it may be said, can only be objected to, as one of the Judges put it to me, on sentimental grounds. Mr. Clarke, a large employer of labour in Auckland, told me that, with these limitations, the difficulty was practically non-existent.

What are the limitations? That the union must not be a close corporation, that every one who is willing to join must be afforded facilities for that purpose, and that there must be no subscription or entrance fee which is prohibitive. With these limitations, Judge Backhouse gives his opinion that there is nothing harmful, that there is a great deal which is beneficial in this provision, and that no one is injured in any way by the carrying out of the Act.

Mr Watson - Mr. Reeves quotes the President of the Wellington Employers' Association to the. same effect.

Mr MAUGER - Quite so. and I could cite other illustrations, all bearing out what I say.

Mr Glynn - The Judge balances up very fairly -in the report, but he does not put it quite so strongly as the honorable member thinks.

Mr MAUGER - The honorable and learned member has brought out clearly the important fact that in New Zealand no minority has been coerced, that, notwithstanding that the provision has been in force for a number of years, the number of . trades unions has only increased at a very small ratio, and that the number of workers inside is far smaller than the number outside the unions. Such being the case, where does the cry of coercion come in, and how is it going to be effected ?

Mr Glynn - It shows that men do not want to join the unions.

Mr MAUGER - I quite recognise that it does. But does not the honorable and learned member know that that is only human nature? Does he not know that in every walk of life the great brunt of the work is borne by a few, and that the largemajority are parasites who live on the fruits of the workers? Take any organization of a social or religious character. The great mass outside the organization are too ignorant, or too careless, or too thoughtless, to in any way contribute to the benefits whichthey are only too glad to receive and take advantage of at the very first opportunity.

Mr Kelly - Are non-unionists thoughtless and ignorant ?

Mr Johnson - Does the honorable member assert that the whole body of workers outside unions are parasites?

Mr MAUGER - I have not said so.

Mr Kelly - The honorable member has said that they are ignorant.

Mr MAUGER - I said that the vast majority of people in connexion with religious and social organizations are too ignorant and careless to do any of the work, or to bear the brunt of the battle, and yet only too ready to reap the benefits which are gained. That is what I said, and what I repeat, and no one knows it better than the honorable member. He knows, too, that the condition of things in the world would be very different to-day if every man were doing his duty in the walk of life in which he finds himself, and it is because men in connexion with trades and professions do not do their duty as citizens that that condition exists. Take the illustration afforded to us by the last general election in Western Australia, when only 27 electors out of every 100 voted.- Does not that demonstrate that the vast majority are so taken up with their material interests or pleasures that they will not exercise the greatest right which has ever been bestowed on a free people? Surely my honorable friend will admit that. Surely he will not contend for a moment that because only 27 electors out of every 100 voted, therefore universal suffrage is wrong, vicious, selfish, exclusive? The argument which he applies to trades unions is that, because the vast majority of the workers have not joined trades unions, their aims and objects are wrong.

Mr Johnson - A very large number of persons were prevented from exercising the franchise.

Mr MAUGER - We admit that.

The CHAIRMAN - Order. The question before the Committee has nothing to do with the exercise of the franchise.

Mr MAUGER - In New Zealand the Act has not forced men to join unions which they did not desire to join, or which it was not to their benefit to join. The Court has demonstrated that it can discriminate. For instance, it was asked to give unionists preference in connexion with the engineering trade, and it refused. Again, it was asked to give unionists preference in regard to other trades, which could be mentioned, and it refused. All we ask is that the Court shall have the right, in circumstances which, in its wisdom, may justify such action, to compel men to become unionists.

Mr Kelly - Is there a special section in the New Zealand Act granting preference to unionists ?

Mr MAUGER - Power is given to the Court to grant preference to unionists, and the Court has exercised it and refused to exercise it.

Mr Kelly - Is it exactly the same power ?

Mr MAUGER - It is.

Mr Kelly - Is not the same power given in the interpretation clause of this Bill as is given in the interpretation section of the New Zealand Act?

Mr MAUGER - Very possibly, but that does not alter the position.

Mr Kelly - Then this clause is superfluous ?

Mr MAUGER - I do not think so, but if it is superfluous, and the power is granted in another part of the Bill, why this strenuous objection to the clause?

Mr Kelly - Why admit it?

Mr MAUGER - Because I think it is necessary for the reasons I have indicated. To-night, and previously, we have heard a great deal about the liberty of the subject. The honorable member for Gippsland, who, as head of the. McLean Government, did more than any two other Premiers in Victoria to bring into operation the Wages Board provision in the Factories Act, has been prattling about the liberty of the subject.

Mr Johnson - That is a subject which the honorable member does not understand.

Mr MAUGER - If I do not understand' the subject, Professor Herron, of the Harvard University, does. This is what he says -

The truths that stood for liberty less than a century ago now fairly oppose the freedom of the sons of God. The tyranny of to-day was the liberty of yesterday. The old passion for independence (and liberty) is the new passion for gain, for the authority which money gives in state, church, and society.

The men who are prattling about liberty are those who are opposing to the very death a measure which has for its object the bringing of liberty to the toiling masses of Australia.

Mr Johnson - He was referring to the tyranny of labour.

Mr MAUGER - He was referring to the tyranny of the so-called prattlers for liberty. What does my honorable friend mean by that term? Does he refer to the negative liberty of the savage, or to the positive liberty of seamstresses under the Factories Act in Victoria. We had a negative liberty here and seamstresses made shirts for i£d. each, but when we were given that repressive measure, the Wages Board compelled the employers to pay the same persons 16s. a week for 48 hours' work. Where is the liberty and where is the freedom ? Is it to be found in the laissez faire policy of my honorable friend, or in the " thou shalt not " which is contained in such a measure as we have before us? The men who in this Chamber prattle about liberty, and talk about the rights of the working man, know nothing about him or his interests. They represent him in no way, and are not in sympathy with his aspirations and ideas. Honorable members who represent banking, insuring, and mining interests claim that this will be an oppression to men who do not belong to trades unions, and yet they belong to the closest corporations and closest trades unions that it is possible to conceive. Take, for instance, the insurance companies of Victoria, and treat as a unit one company. It will be found that it is absolutely impossible for one to inaugurate a new company here unless he belongs to the Underwriters' Association.

Mr Glynn - The point is not closing them, but forcing them open.

Mr MAUGER - The organizations I am speaking of are closed. The Insurance Institute here is such a close corporation, such a fearful trades union-

Mr Lonsdale - Is that right?

Mr MAUGER - These people think so, but they refuse to allow that right to others.

Mr Lonsdale - But does the honorable member think it is right?

Mr MAUGER - If I had to choose between the two evils of a monopoly or an organization, and unbridled and unrestricted competition, I should prefer the former by all means, and I should regulate it, and I am sure that it would be to the advantage of the community. .

Mr Johnson - The whole political history of the honorable member bears out that statement.

Mr MAUGER - I am not ashamed of my political history in any respect. Let me tell the honorable member that at the last Trades Union Congress, held in Chicago, it was unanimously resolved that the trusts there had been, to a large degree, beneficial to the interests of the trades unions and wage-earners of America, and that trusts properly regulated were infinitely better than competition unbridled and unchecked. This proposal is opposed by the representatives of the most powerful and close corporations in Victoria. They know the value of these unions or corporations. They compel every one who wishes to trade with them, whether lawyers, bankers, or insurance brokers, first to join their ranks. That being the case, why should they be so apprehensive about the interests of the working men ?

Mr Willis - Does the honorable member approve of that?

Mr MAUGER - Of the two evils, I prefer the latter. I am not either approving or disapproving of it.

Mr Willis - What is the latter?

Mr MAUGER - I am pointing out that they deny to others what they consider to be good for themselves.

Mr Willis - Does the honorable member approve of it?

Mr MAUGER - I will not enter into that matter. It is too big a question to be discussed now, and not relevant to the amendment. Not one representative of a large body of working men has been authorized to protest against4 this clause. With some exceptions, those who oppose it are those who are opposed to the spirit and genius of the Bill, and to trades unionism.

Mr Chapman - That is most unfair.

Mr MAUGER - I have said that there are exceptions, and I will accept my honorable friend as one of them.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not opposed to trades unionism.

Mr MAUGER - I accept my honorable friend's assurance ; but he speaks only for himself. What about the honorable and learned member for Wannon, and other honorable members sitting in the Opposition corner? Is it not notorious that they are opposed to the Bill?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Many of those .who opposed the clause have shown the sincerity of their sympathies for labour to a greater extent than the honorable member has done.

Mr MAUGER - I am content to leave the public to judge that. I hope that the amendment will be rejected. I can regard those who vote for it only as voting against one of the main provisions of the Bill, and one of the leading principles of radicalism and trades unionism.

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