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Thursday, 23 June 1904


Mr SPENCE (Darling) - The question now before us is, I venture to sa\ j of more practical importance than many of those which we have recently been discussing. I wish to direct the attention of honorable members, who seem to be unnecessarily alarmed with regard to the probable .operation of the clause, to a few- facts which will, I think, show them that they have been labouring under a misapprehension. Those persons who have not been brought into close touch with trades unions and their methods make many mistakes as to the motives which actuate them, and the manner in which their operations are conducted. Writers on 'the subject of trades unions mention numerous acts of trades unions which have been condemned by their opponents, but which have afterwards been proved to be based upon good 'and sufficient reasons. In this connexion I cannot refrain from quoting a few words of the- Emperor Sigismund, bearing upon the ©Derations of the old craft guilds which were, to some extent, the precursors of the trades unions of to-day. A good deal of discussion took place with regard to their methods of working and their action in limiting the number of apprentices to be employed, and in restricting - the operations of artisans to particular industries. In 1436, the Emperor Sigismund, dealing with the crafts of that day, said : -

Our forefathers have not been fools. The crafts have been devised for this purpose, that everybody bv them should earn his daily bread', and nobody shall interfere with the craft of another. By this the world gets rid of its misery, and every one may find his livelihood.

The trades union movement is not a new one, but has a most magnificent history of struggle, unselfishness, and heroism. It is well that we should recognise this fact when we are dealing with the subject now under discussion. I need scarcely say that I have had an extended experience of trades unions. I have taken a 'considerable part in organizing the largest unions in Australia, and I have been intimately associated with the working of many others; I know how seriously these organizations consider every matter in times of trouble, and I hope to be able to show honorable members that it is ridiculous to assume that men are swayed this way and that like so many children, and act upon sudden impulses when they have grievances that require adjustment. The British trades unionists have been spoken of by Lord Rosebery as the aristocracy of labour - not an aristocracy with which the idea of wealth is associated, . but a mental aristocracy, which embraces the best men of the classes to which they belong. Lord Rosebery recognised their manhood and their worth. Those honorable members who think that trades unionists plunge themselves into trouble because one man lifts a little finger have had no experience of the methods adopted by such organizations. Some misapprehension also exists as to the distinction between unionists and non-unionists. The unionists, as a rule, are selected by the employer. If an employer started an industry and employed a number of workmen, he would probably not stop to inquire whether they were members of a trades union or otherwise. He would, in the first place, select the best men available and, as time went on, would weed them out, or redistribute them in such a way as to produce the best and most harmonious results. After a. time the workmen might become dissatisfied with the terms of their engagement, but might not move very readily in the direction of obtaining redress. As a rule grievances are allowed to exist for a considerable time before definite action is taken. Eventually, however, some one might move in the matter of organizing the men. It is supposed by many persons that the organizing comes from without, but, as a matter of fact, it generally comes from within. Practically the employer who acts unjustly towards his employes, and not the paid agitator, who has been spoken of by honorable members who know nothing whatever about the subject, is the organizer. The workmen may bring their grievances before their employer through one of their number, who is selected to act as spokesman. If the employer should prove resentful the man who is thus thrust forward has to take the risk of being ultimately victimized for the prominent part he has played in the dispute. The men may, however, appeal to some one outside, possibly an official of a kindred organization, who can, without any fear of consequences, approach the employer and lay the case before him. Every experienced officer of a union must recognise that the employes whom it is difficult to induce to join its ranks, are those who are working for fair employers. That difficulty, however, does .not arise because they object to unions. As a matter of fact, they believe in them. But when things are working smoothly these men become indifferent to the claims of unions. Nevertheless, they are not non-unionists. The true test of a unionist arises only . when a strike occurs, and when men are required to risk losing their occupations. On such occasions there is always a certain percentage who sacrifice their principles as the result of fear. It is the old unionists who stand firm, and who ' can be relied upon, just as in the battles of the Empire veteran regiments are always employed to capture trying positions. That task is never left to raw recruits. The old trades unionists are less likely to rashly enter into an industrial dispute than are their less experienced confreres; but there are always a certain number who secede when a serious trouble arises. The true test of whether a man is a unionist' is to be found in the answer to the question - " Is he willing to take the place of a man upon strike?" The individual who is willing to do- so is a nonunionist. I wish to put the position fairly, and to justify the action of the Government in retaining this clause. The non-unionists are those who are prepared to fill the places of men upon strike, when the latter are fighting for the rights of all individuals equally. It is notorious that some of the men who are most eager to rush into an industrial conflict are the first to fill the places of their own comrades. In all well established organizations, the agitator will always be found advising the exercise of caution. Under this provision, the men who are not members of an organization, are not classed as " non-unionists." It has been said that out of 6.000 miners, at Broken Hill only 2.000 are unionists. I say that if there are 6,000 miners on the Barrier there are 6,000 unionists, because it is impossible to get non-unionist miners. I organized the miners, and I recollect that, in thirteen cases out of thirty-six the employers posted notices forbidding their employes to join the union. But their efforts were of no avail. Many years ago the mine-owners utterly failed to fill the places of miners upon strike. Of course it is possible to get bipeds to work in the mines, but I claim that it is not possible to get miners. Amongst the whole of those who are engaged in mining, whether it be for coal, copper, silver, or gold, it is impossible to find practical men who are non-unionists. I recollect a case which occurred in Victoria several years ago, before the unionist movement had attained its present proportions, in which seven mining directors scoured the country in search of men to fill the places of miners upon strike. As the result of their efforts they succeeded in obtaining the services of one man.


Mr Knox - - The honorable member is wrong.


Mr SPENCE - I have not made a single statement which I cannot verify. The question of differentiating between unionists and non-unionists does not arise in connexion with this clause. The opponents of the provision urge that we should consider the interests of those who do not belong to unions. But I hold that they are not adverse to. unions. As excuses for not joining these organizations, they plead that " things are running smoothly," or that " they have sufficient calls upon their resources." I do not think that these pleas are justified, but nevertheless the men themselves are not antagonistic to unions. They do not need the assistance of the honorable member for North Sydnev. They are quite capable of taking care of themselves. I regard all these men as unionists.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the Bill does not include them.


Mr SPENCE - I wish to deal with one point at a time. I repeat that the question of distinguishing between unionists and non-unionists does not arise under the clause. We are asked to deal only with those individuals who are not members of an organization. Last night it was urged that these men should not be coerced. If the honorable member for Wentworth, who is so desperately alarmed lest coercion should be attempted, would only take a trip during the parliamentary recess, if he would leave his money behind him, sink his identity, don moleskin trousers, and secure a job amongst this class of men, he would receive a splendid education.


Mr Kelly - If I had no money, how could I pay my subscription?


Mr SPENCE - In the shearing industry the squatters and the big financial institutions pay the subscriptions. Certainly the shearers do not pay them. Trades unionism provides a method of insurance which pays exceedingly well. The officers of the Shearers' Union know the number of sheep to be shorn, and the rate per 100 to be paid. They have the necessary data to enable them to make an accurate estimate. The difference between the lowest rate at which the Pastoralists' Union attempted to secure shearers, and that which the Workers' Union was able to uphold, averages to those engaged in taking off the wool £5 10s. annually. As the shearer pays only 10s. a year subscription, he could not get a. better investment than is offered to him by the union. It is true that the men are required to pay a premium, but it should be recollected that indirectly they get back a big dividend. Some years ago Mr. Curley, the secretary of the Miners' Association at Newcastle, made a similar estimate in regard to that organization. He made allowance for all the strikes in which the men had been engaged, and for every levy made upon them, and the net result showed that they Had made a very substantial gain by being unionists. In another district in which every man was required rn be a member of a union, under an arrangement that existed between employers and employes, after allowing for every call that had been made upon them during a period of more than ten years, it was found that' the men had benefited as the result of unionism by a considerable sum. We are fully justified in asking that those whobenefited from the operation of unions should contribute towards their funds. I have learned during the adjournment *for dinner that when I quoted certain figures relating to the number of miners at Broken Hill, the honorable member for Kooyong understood me to say, in answer to an . interjection by him. that they were absolutely correct. I wish to clear away any cause of misapprehension by sayingthat I was using those figures only by way of illustration, and did not claim that they were correct. I was in reality quoting a statement that had been made by some one else, and knew that the actual figures were not as had been stated. I believe that the difference is very much greater than is shown by those figures. It is necessary that we should understand what is meant by the employment of certain terms. I have already explained the causes leading to the organization of workers; but I should like to emphasize the point that just as sweating on the part of a limited number of employers may cause fairminded employers, who would not do anything that would press harshly on their employes, to take action, so the existence of grievances which can be remedied only by united action compels employes to form unions. It is well known that the large number of workers organized in Australia and elsewhere is due to the fact that they have been compelled to organize in order to remedy grievances. Those who do not belong to unions are either, to some extent, satisfied with their conditions, or perhaps have not the courage to take any step to remedy the disabilities under which they labour. If men were satisfied, with their conditions of employment they would not appeal to the Court. I am anxious to remove the impression in the minds of some honorable members that men are coerced and forced to become unionists.


Mr Wilson - This Bill would force them to become unionists.


Mr SPENCE - I want honorable members to follow my line of argument, and do not intend to allow myself to be led away to the discussion of any side issue. I am dealing with existing conditions, and I maintain that there is no coercion. Trades unions are voluntary organizations, and could not be .worked successfully unless they were. They vary according to the condition of the industries to which they relate. Sometimes they are forced into a big struggle, and are beaten, and in such circumstances have to accept conditions of which they do not approve, while theyquietly work up their strength once more. That is the history of trades unionism both in England and Australia. It is a sense of injustice that causes men to organize, and only when men felt that they were labouring under an injustice would they ask the Court to take action. Officers of unions have had experience of a deliberate boycott. I do not charge all employers with having resorted to such tactics. I am personally acquainted with scores who prefer that their men should be organized, who always employ unionists, and would engage a unionist in preference to a non-unionist, knowing that it is to their interests that harmonious relations should exist between them and their workmen. They know that unionists

4X

are the best workmen, because they have been specially selected by employers. Employers invariably choose the best workmen, and these men, after they have been .at work for some time, generally organize. I do not say that, unionists are the best workers merely because they are unionists ; but the fact that they belong to an organization shows that they are the most intelligent.


Mr Wilson - Not at all.


Mr SPENCE - The honorable member does not know anything about these matters, so far as they are concerned, he may be said to have been living on another planet. I wish to advance what I consider a very strong argument in favour of the retention of this provision by referring to an organization to which it is intended that this measure shall directly apply. Let me deal with the position of the Australian Workers' Union, of which I am the president. There can be no question of preference so far as unionist shearers are concerned, for the number of shearers who do not belong to that organization is hardly worth mentioning. The unionist seamen and wharf labourers are in the same position. There can be no question as to their being in a majority. Their organizations are thoroughly representative of their respective industries, so that the question of preference cannot affect them. In the last Parliament I referred to the black-list system adopted by the Pastoralists' Union, and should not have revived the subject, but that it is necessary to do so in connexion with the consideration of this clause. An official document, which is at present in the hands of the honorable member for Maranoa, absolutely supports the statement that I then made. A system of issuing black-lists has been carried on for several years past by the Pastoralists' Union, although, so far as I am aware,' the Victorian pastoralists have had nothing to do with the practice. It has been most freely availed of in Queensland, and has also been carried into New South Wales. The system is this: From the various offices of the union confidential lists are sent to managers of stations, who are required to fill them in by giving the name of every shearer employed by them, and particulars as to his ability, sobriety, and general qualifications. These circulars are numbered, and the references issued to shearers are also numbered, special type being used in printing some portions of them.' In order to secure employment it is essential that a shearer shall produce a reference from his last employer, setting , forth his qualifications as a workman, his sobriety and general behaviour.


Mr Wilson - Surely there can be no objection to that.


Mr SPENCE - Let me show the honorable member the object which the pastoralists have in view. The confidential reports are returned to head-quarters, and from those reports another confidential document, or black-list, is prepared and supplied to the pastoralists. The result is that a pastoralist on looking at the reference presented by an applicant for work can immediately ascertain by reference to the number whether his name appears on the black-list. A man may present a first-class certificate as to workmanship, sobriety, and general behaviour, and nevertheless be refused employment. When the holder of a first-class certificate is refused work it cannot be said that it is because he lacks ability as a shearer. The refusal is due to the fact that his name appears on the black-list as an undesirable.


Mr Wilson - The board as probably full when he applies.


Mr SPENCE - There is no uncertainty as to this matter. The Pastoralists' Union have black-listed a number of men and driven them out of Queensland, 'or made it impossible for them to obtain work as shearers there, except from friendly employers. Financial institutions have unfortunately become possessed of so many stations that the opportunities to evade this system are very limited. Those who doubt my assertion can be shown the documentary proof of its accuracy, which is in the hands of the honorable member for Maranoa. I have seen other documents that have been secretly issued by the Pastoralists' Union with the deliberate intention of black-balling any man who has acted as the mouth-piece of his fellows. A man may be black-listed because, in the opinion of the employer, he is an agitator. A unionist who refuses to be taken down by the high price of rations or the other means adopted to get at these men, is practically boycotted. The holder of a first-class reference may leave his family, with scarcely a penny in his pocket, to seek employment, only to be driven from place to place in ignorance of the fact that he has been black-listed. Is not this a cruel and oppressive system? Hundreds of men have been hunted out of Queensland by the adoption of it.


Mr Wilson - Do not the Labour Party issue black-lists?


Mr SPENCE - I am astounded that the honorable member should treat this subject so lightly. It is no laughing matter. If the honorable member had to look for work with a black-list against him it would do him good. This system was also adopted in the early days of Broken Hill.


Mr Knox - I never heard of it.


Mr SPENCE - I am speaking of what I know to be a fact. In Broken Hill a list was issued to mine managers. A copy which was received by a friend of mine bore the names of eight men who went from mine to mine in search of employment, but in every case were told that there was no work for them. The manager did not know why he was asked to refuse work to the men. The same practice has been followed in America, but never so systematically as by the Pastoralists' Union of Australia, which has always refused to meet the workmen in conference to settle difficulties which have arisen, and which, at the same time, has boycotted every man who was a unionist, driving hundreds of men to Western Australia. Let me describe the cruelty that the honorable member for Corangamite laughed at. ' With a first-class reference a man leaves his family, and is told that on its presentation he can get work. But in every case he is refused work, because when the manager goes into his office, and refers to his confidential list, he finds that the man is not to receive employment. He does not tell, the man that fact. We had some difficulty in discovering the reason for these refusals, and at last it was found in their own documents. By accident, not bv design, I received a parcel of confidential circulars, in which instructions were given to pastoralists, and a huge pile of references with instructions as to how thev were to be filled in. For a long while, when men began to find that they could not get work, although they had good references, they thought that a secret mark was put on a reference, but it could not be found.


Mr Johnson - Under this clause it is proposed to transfer the power of blacklisting to unionists.


Mr SPENCE - The honorable member should go to something that he knows - the. land. We know that the Pastoralists' Union is still carrying out this boycotting system. That 'is an organization that, we propose to bring before the Court of Arbitration, in order to secure fair treatment for the workers. With this provision in the Act, the Court can put a stop to the boycotting of a man because he is a unionist.


Mr Crouch - Could it not be made an offence to have a black-list?


Mr SPENCE - The commission of many an act may be made an offence, but the great difficulty is to furnish the necessary proof of its committal. Supposing that a shearer with a first-class reference goes to a man and asks for employment. The employer cannot be compelled to give the applicant employment; and need not tell him that he is refused because his name is on a black-list. I am speaking of an organization which meets and plots in secret.


Mr Crouch - I cannot see how this clause will meet that condition of things.


Mr SPENCE - I am anxious to show honorable members the value of the clause. I have had some experience in this regard. As soon as the employers got a chance they boycotted me, and I worked into another occupation, perhaps better than the one I was in, though it was a long while before I did. I have known what ii is to be short of a meal, and I can sympathize with those who suffer that hardship. There is no one so mean as the man who, posing in society as a gentleman, and indulging in a " haw-haw " style, joins an organization which deliberately prevents other men from securing a living. Yet some honorable members who represent the Employers' Federation, with which the Pastoralists' Union is associated, come here and plead for a man who is not a member of a union, lest he should be thrown out into the cold. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has not expressed a word of sympathy for the men who have been boycotted out of their living.


Mr Robinson - Oh ves, I have.


Mr SPENCE - In 'this State I know a decent man with a family of nine who, because a newspaper published a word that he did not use at a meeting of the union, was boycotted by the mine-owners in Victoria, and we had to help him to live until he got a job. I am speaking from a full knowledge of the way in which the boycott is worked against unionists. That is our justification for asking for the enactment of this clause. I feel indignant, as any one must do, at the tactics which are adopted against unionists. Let us consider the practical operation of the clause. Supposing that an appeal were made to the I 4x2

Court. In the case of our union, we should certainly ask that preference be given to unionists. The door of our union is open. We have cancelled any rule to which there was any reasonable objection. Any one who joins the union has a voice in the framing of its rules, which, of course, are only intended as a- means to an end. Supposing that we' secured the concession of a preference to unionists. That would at once checkmate the boycotting of unionists. If that power be not given to the Court, then we might as well not have the measure.


Mr McCay - Supposing that two unionists applied, one of whom was on a blacklist, how would the latter be bettered by a preference to unionists?


Mr SPENCE - The position is that the pastoralists cannot do their work without the unionists ; but if an odd case did occur, such as the honorable and learned member mentions--


Mr McCay - The number of men or» any black-list would be small.


Mr SPENCE - That would be so ; but. in any case the pastoralists could not under this provision continue to refuse work .to a unionist because he was on a black-list. Of course, a pastoralist might refuse to err* ploy a man where he had a choice, anc* there would be no objection if he did. An employer must have the selection of hi* men, irrespective of anything.


Mr Wilson - Under this Bill he would not.


Mr SPENCE - The choice is left absolutely to the employer ; but the point I arn making is that the pastoralists could not do all the work, without engaging the unionists, so that no great number of them could, continue the boycotting system. It could not be prevented in the case of a limited number.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The illustration of the black-list, which the honorable member has given, relates to a trade in which nearly all the men are unionists.


Mr SPENCE - In this occupation practically all the men are 'unionists. No great number of the men who are at work are outside the union.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then a preference is no protection?


Mr SPENCE - The grant of a preference in that case would stop the boycott. There are other reasons why it would stop the boycott. The whole conditions would be altered under the Bill, which is a very important point. I wish to impress honorable members with the importance of giving a protection to unionists. It is only a tyrannical employer who. will boycott a man because he belongs to a union, unless, of course, the man is personally objectionable. In some cases, those who are not members of a union are men who have been working for poor employers, and if they happen to get out of work there is no quarrel. But, generally, those who in a full market are out of work are not good workmen. That is a natural condition of things. What we need to do in the Bill is to safeguard the interests of the employer by securing for him every facility for filling his shop, or whatever it may be, with competent workmen. We do not want to limit him, and as a preference to unionists, if granted by the Court, would only operate until the supply of efficient union labour was exhausted, he would then be free to employ anybody else. He would be subjected to no suffering or penalty. The honorable member for North Sydney seemed to imply that if an employer required a number of men he would be limited -in his choice, if he were confined to taking unionists only. But in practical working that difficulty does not arise. It is not an uncommon thing for unionists and non-unionists to work together in the same field. In the case of some occupations, especially trades, all the competent working men are in the organizations. If that is so - and I know it is a fact - :what interference with employers' interests can there be in enabling the Court to give a preference to unionists ? The employers 'would get all the best workmen. For, in the case of most industries, membership of a union is a guarantee that a man is a first-class workman. I need hardly remind honorable members of -the fact that the evidence taken before Royal Commissions in the old country, and the evidence furnished here by private employers, was to the effect that unionists are the best workmen. They are the most intelligent pf the men, and, therefore, are kept. In the case of the old trades - engineers and carpenters - the unions insist on competency, requiring that a man shall have learned his trade. Surely that is something to be applauded. I am astonished that with all these good points, which have been recognised by employers for ages - so much recognised that very many employers will employ none but unionists - honorable members should hesitate to pass this clause. I could name very many pastoralists who send to the union office, and ask to be supplied with men. The union always does its best to supply the pastoralists with the best men it can get. Quite a number of individual pastoralists adopt that course. I shall now deal with the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney, who, it seems to me, has not thought it out. I would draw his attention to some difficulties which have occurred to my mind. He proposes that there shall be compulsory unionism ; real State Socialism is nothing compared with what he proposes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not say compulsory unionism.


Mr SPENCE - Well, the honorable member proposes that the whole of the men employed in an industry should be enrolled on the payment of a small fee.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - For the purposes of the Act.


Mr SPENCE - In. the first place, an organization has to be in existence before it can be registered. Does the honorable member, propose that immediately the Act comes into operation, all workers are to be organized under its provisions by the Government ? How are they to become organized? They cannot go to the Court or Registrar, unless they are organized. Evidently the honorable member proposes that they shall be organized by the Government.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not by the Government.


Mr SPENCE - I cannot see how the honorable member can set a start.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I can easily show the honorable member that.


Mr SPENCE - The answer may be that ' in the Bill we can make it compulsory on the .part of every employer to supply a list of his employes.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - -We shall get the start that this Parliament gets - by enrolling a body of electors.


Mr SPENCE - If anybody is to be enrolled, somebody has to do the enrolling. If it is to be done by Act of Parliament, it will have to be made compulsory on the part of every employer to supply a list of his workmen to the Registrar.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - With their subscriptions.


Mr SPENCE - With the subscriptions compulsorily taken from the men. Now, the subscription will have to be fixed by Act of Parliament.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, by the Court.


Mr SPENCE - How can the Court fix the subscription when it is only an organization that can go to it? I am sure that the honorable member has not thought out the effects of his amendment. If the employer is to be compelled to supply a list of his employes and. their subscriptions as members of an organization, then the provision with respect to the necessary funds to meet an award of the Court goes by the board, because there will be no award of the Court until after a case has been heard. The honorable member will admit that there must be a means of management where there is an organization. The employes who are organized must elect a committee, and supposing they decline to do so? There are numbers of workmen engaged in different industries who have no quarrel with their employers.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Suppose that in a trade where there were no unionists, the employes declined to elect a committee under this Bill, what would happen in that case ?


Mr SPENCE - The honorable gentleman apparently intends -that the whole of the industries in the Commonwealth shall be organized.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the honorable member answer my question?


Mr Watson - There will be no dispute if there are no members of a union or no organization.


Mr SPENCE - The honorable member's amendment cannot operate unless employes are organized in some form or another.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill provides for organizations other than trades unions ; how are thev to be originated under this Bill?


Mr SPENCE - No question of that kind arises under the amendment. I desire to analyze it, and to see how it is likely to work. I have not been able to see that it can be worked. The honorable member proposes, first of all, to take the names of all persons employed in Australia. What for? To enable them to become members of organizations under this Bill. In the first place, it is by no means clear how far this Bill will -apply, or how many unions will come under it. I know of very few myself, because the Bill only deals with Inter-State disputes. The honorable member for North Sydney proposes to put all the machinery of government in motion to or ganize all the industries in the Commonwealth ; and yet he has been one of those who have deprecated the creation of disputes and industrial troubles. We have wisely deprecated extravagant expenditure in the Commonwealth, yet the honorable member's amendment would create one of the largest of public Departments. There would have to be some officials to collect the subscriptions which the honorable member proposes shall be paid by the employes in any industry, unless the Registrar of the Court could do that. Honorable members opposite have been championing the cause of the men who do not desire to be organized, and what have they to say to a proposal which compels all employes to be organized, when they have no trouble, do not desire to go to the Court, to elect committees, or to do anything at all ? If, as we have heard, it is the desire of honorable members opposite that men should be left alone, I cannot understand why they should support an amendment of this kind. I remind the honorable member for North Sydney that it will be found impossible in the shearing industry to secure a list of the employes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why impossible ?


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - One can be got for the purpose of making a black-list.


Mr SPENCE - An employer may send along a list of those who have been, working for him this year, but that would hot cover the employes working in the industry next year when the number of sheep to be shorn may be half as many again as the number shorn this year.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be a complete list in the meantime.


Mr SPENCE - The honorable member would make it mandatory oft the part of the pastoralist to send along a list of his employes, with subscriptions collected from them. The list of names would be recorded, and what would follow then? I ask the honorable member what possible chance he thinks there is for a new organization springing into existence in the shearing industry, without the consent of the existing organization? Under the honorable member's proposal the pastoralist would send in a list of the names, and subscriptions, and that would be sufficient to form those men into an organization. Surely the honorable member must be aware that a union cannot be formed in that way. It must be done voluntarily. I am altogether opposed to this coercive method of action.

I am a strong advocate for voluntary action. I am astounded that this State-socialistic scheme, which is bureaucratic in every respect, should be introduced by the honorable member for North Sydney. What is the honorable member going to do under his amendment with existing unions ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not going to do anything.


Mr SPENCE - That means that existing unions are to continue their existence as entities. They are registered legal bodies, who have a standing, and who can come before the Arbitration Court.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Othello's occupation would be gone.


Mr SPENCE - They can, under this Bill, appear in the Arbitration Court, not as plaintiffs, but as parties objecting to an award. I should like to see where the honorable member's new organization of shearers is to come in, when the old organization of shearers can do what they wish with them.'


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the present Shearers' Union not composed of employes in the industry?'


Mr SPENCE - Yes, it is.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Very well ; they would all be in the new organization.


Mr SPENCE - They would not recognise the new organization.


Mr Kelly - Would they defy the Court?


Mr SPENCE - It is not a question of defiance. No One is speaking of anything of the kind. The honorable member for North Sydney admits that the old unions in every industry are to stand.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not say anything about them.


Mr SPENCE - The honorable member is a practical man generally ; this is the only serious departure on his part that I can call to mind. There are unions in different trades, some of which are very old indeed, such as the Amalgamated ' Carpenters. Those unions will continue to exist, and the honorable member for North Sydney knows it. The enrolment of their names and calling them another organization will not make another organization of them.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member forgets that the new association proposed is to be formed for the purposes of this Bill only.


Mr SPENCE - I understand that. The honorable member is proposing that an existing organization comprising two-thirds of the employes in an industry shall submit themselves to another organization comprising but a third of the employes in the industry.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No.


Mr SPENCE - It must be so under the honorable member's amendment.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - For the purposes of this Bill; not for the purposes for which the organizations now exist.


Mr SPENCE - The honorable member proposes by compulsion to make men who are members of an existing organization form another organization. We shall have a union within a union varying in power according fo its numbers and other circumstances. Can honorable members look for peaceful or sensible working under such conditions? Take a case where half the employes in an industry are members of an existing organization, and the other half have remained out of it. They will, under the honorable member's amendment, be organized together in the new organization' for the purposes of this Bill, and they must elect officers, who will state their case tothe Court. Is there likely to be any harmony in such an arrangement as that, when men who have been fighting and suffering - for honorable members know that trades unionists have suffered individual loss in fighting for the good of their fellows - are compelled to join with men who have stood aloof from their organizations? The honorable member for North Sydney proposes with the assistance of a majority of the Committee to force by law the members of existing organizations to be subservient to others engaged in the same occupation, who have hitherto been standing aloof from their organizations. Do honorable members think for a moment that working men are going to stand that?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Take a case where only a tenth of the employes are members of an existing union. Are they to rule the roost ?


Mr SPENCE - There is no ruling of the roost in it. I am pointing out to the honorable member that his proposal is surrounded by so many difficulties that it must be self-evident to members of the Committee that it is absolutely unworkable. Under it there will require to be penalties for employers who refuse to send in a list of the names of their employes, and other penalties for those who send' in lists that are inaccurate. If such penalties are not provided for we know that some employers will be very careless in the performance of this work. They are not likely to be as eager as the honorable member for North Sydney appears to be to force men into the Arbitration Court. This proposal is beyond the wildest dreams of the most enthusiastic agitator. The honorable member for North Sydney outHerods Herod in this matter. The worst form of compulsion, and even of State Socialism, is not to be compared with his proposal.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has he become more radical than the honorable member?


Mr SPENCE - Yes, the .honorable member has. We have been urged in this Bill to provide for compulsory preference to unions, but we, who are now apparently the moderate section of the community, fought against extremists in our organizations, for what we considered a fair thing to every one concerned, leaving it to the Court to decide when a case was before it whether a justifiable claim for preference to unionists had been submitted. The operation of the law in New Zealand has been referred to, and we know that the Court there has in many cases given preference to unionists, the guiding principle being that where the majority of employes in an industry belong to . an organization, and have voluntarily joined it, preference should be given to members of that organization.


Mr McCay - Would the honorable member agree to that being included in this Bill?


Mr SPENCE - I propose to deal with one point at a time. I am not sure that the Bill, if amended as proposed, will be worth anything at all when it is passed. We contend that we should start with existing conditions; we should introduce as little friction and as few changes as possible ; we should try and secure the peaceful working of industry, and declare strikes illegal. The extreme radicals of the Opposition have prevented that being carried out fully, and have allowed a great number of people to strike. People employed in the harvest-field and other places may now strike as the result of action taken by honorable members opposite. We wished to declare all strikes illegal ; to provide means for the settlement of disputes, and, instead of adopting the revolutionary provision of the honorable member for North Sydney, we proposed to follow the evolutionary method of recognising existing institutions, and diverting them to new uses, putting upon them a check that would remove any objections which reasonable men might have to extreme action on the part of any body of unionists. That is the position we have taken up, but it appears that it is not satisfactory to honorable members who have been declared opponents of the measure, and who now wish to provide for compulsory unionism, and the compulsory payment of union subscriptions. What is behind it all? I fail to discover any need for this provision. The honorable member for North Sydney is really proposing to enforce preference for unionists, whilst we propose that it should not be made compulsory, but that it should be left to the discretion of the Court. I have given some reasons out of many why the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney should not be accepted. The best method to protect men from the tyrannical and harsh employer is to adopt this paragraph. Let me appeal 'to honorable members with regard to the serious side of the case. The history of the trades union movement is known to most thoughtful people of any reading. Let me remind the Committee of what a long existence trades unionism has had, what a great power for good it is in the old world, what a part it has played in the development of Australia, and of the struggles and the suffering men have endured in its defence. In England not so very long ago' it was attempted to suppress trades unionism by Act of Parliament. Unions were declared to be "illegal combinations." But men still met. as men of grit will do. The best examples of the qualities which we most admire in the British race, are to be found in the history of the trades union movement. Men met in secret, and they buried their books in the woods. Some were sent to gaol and were transported for their unionism. Honorable members will have read of the case of the Dorchester labourers who were sent to Sydney and sold at £1 a head. They were unionists. Subsequently the law extended some protection to trades unions. They were recognised when the law could no longer avoid recognising them, and after they had succeeded in living down the prejudice that was worked up against them by pulpit, press, and platform. The influences against unionism were great, and the same influences are to a large extent against it still. There is no small combination of such influences in this very Chamber. I would not say that honorable members opposite desire to crush trades unionism, but there seems to be some disposition to that effect. I do not know whether the honorable member for Corangamite and the honorable and learned member for Wannon expect to succeed where all the powers of the law of Great Britain failed?

Mi. Robinson. - That is a small contract for us !


Mr SPENCE - I should like to remind some of those honorable members who have a great deal to say about trades unionism, of the immense benefits that exist in connexion with many of our organizations - benefits which other friendly societies do not provide for the workers. The unions have their superannuation funds, funds to provide for old age, and funds for men who are out of work. They provide for loss of tools, and in some cases for their members who have to travel in search of work. They also have their sick benefit funds. Our unions are the cheapest and the most honestly managed friendly organizations in the world. That is admitted by all students of trades unionism. Five of the largest English societies have, in twenty years, paid away nearly ^3,000.000 in benefit funds. At one time of serious distress in the old country, over 11,000 families were maintained by trades unions.' In this country there is no family, the head of which belongs to a trades union, that is allowed to suffer from want of food in a time of depression. We had a great struggle in the year 1890. We were then told by those who posed as friends of the unions that we should not resort to extreme measures by striking, but should attempt to attain our ends by constitutional means. We realized that it was possible to attain some of our ends by constitutional methods. We saw plainly enough that the Parliamentary machine - the law-making machine - controlled affairs to a very large extent. We began to work with a view to take a hand in politics. We have continued that policy ; but we have taken so big a hand in politics that those who used to advise us to adopt constitutional methods now find fault with us because we have become a political power. One of the great sins of which trades unionism has been guilty is, Ave are told, that it takes part in politics. We have been for some years educating our members. We were very wan7;-


Mr McColl - Hear, hear.


Mr SPENCE - The honorable member says " Hear, hear " too soon. We were very wary about accepting compulsory arbitration as a means for settling disputes. It has been admitted, over and over again, that but for the confidence which we have in justice, as administered in Australia, we never should have consented to it. I will go further, and say that but for " the say " that the working man is having in politics, and the influence which he possesses under the broad franchise of Australia, we should have refused to accept compulsory arbitration. We have had to persuade trades unionists of long experience - men who have lived a lifetime in unionism, and who are wedded to the older methods - that this new method is going to be a good and a safe thing. We are willing to take the risks, with all the disadvantages attaching to legislation of this description. Of course we do not expect that the Arbitration Court will achieve everything. We are not the sort of people who carry millenniums in our pockets. We have no political panacea. But we say that it is better to secure industrial peace by means of legislation of this description than to strike, because we believe that there are constitutional methods of improving social conditions, and that strikes do not result in benefits which are in any degree permanent. But strikes have been necessary weapons in the hands of trades unionists in the past, and when we surrender those weapons we must make sure that we pass into law a measure which will not do injustice to anybody. But those' who first of all advised us to adopt constitutional methods are now trying to wipe out the history of the trades union movement, and to deny to the unions any " say " in the working of this legislation. They desire to introduce an entire revolution in industrial affairs. Why ? The honorable member for Wentworth is the only one who has had the courage to tell the Committee the reason why. Because the unions meddle with politics. Is there any public organization that is not, to some extent, political? Is there one that does not in some degree meddle in politics? Does the honorable member for Wentworth think that he can prevent the democracy of Australia from meddling in politics? Does he think that hs can deprive the unions of their rights in' this regard ? Is he going to prevent them by Act of Parliament ? Nobody can dream of such a thing.


Mr Kelly - We do not want to do that.


Mr SPENCE - As a matter of fact, the honorable member endeavours to create separate organizations for the purposes of this Bill. But that would not prevent -the unions interesting themselves in politics. It would simply have the effect of forcing more men into the unions, which would Le stronger than before.


Mr Kelly - They would have more freedom .


Mr SPENCE - The honorable member is not fighting for freedom, but for coercion. The Labour Party's proper position is becoming understood. We intend that it shall bs understood; and those honorable members who are opposing this Bill will be understood by the country. It is not a fact, however, that all the unions interfere in politics. Every union is not associated with the political movements of the Labour Party. The unions are absolutely free to act as they like in this respect. I have travelled for several years in succession, organizing and lecturing on -behalf of the union with which I am associated, teaching the members of it that they must look to constitutional and political methods for securing social reform, and that the old trades union method of dealing with industrial matters does not secure lasting reform. It merely secures improvements with respect to hours of labour and wages. If I had organized on distinctly labour lines, with the object of fighting the employers, we should have had far greater difficulties than we have had in restraining our men from going on strike sometimes. Some of the older organizations have, however, declined to touch politics. Plenty of them make it a condition of membership that politics shall not be introduced at the union meetings. But trades unions are not the only organizations' which take an interest in politics- The Federated Employers' Union, which works the systematic boycott, is a political institution almost entirely; whereas our unions, in any case, are only partly political, and, in some cases, decline to touch politics.


Mr Kennedy - -Did not the New South Wales Court say the unions should not touch politics at all?


Mr SPENCE - The Court did not say so.


Mr McColl - Did it not say so in the case of the Australian Workers' Union?


Mr SPENCE - No, the Australian Workers' Union has not been before- the Arbitration Court?







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