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Friday, 24 June 1904

Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - I have listened very attentively to the debate, and I desire to say a few words with regard to some of the suggestions made by honorable members. In the first place, I might mention that without a provision for preference to unionists the whole fabric of this measure will' be practically destroyed. The law cannot be applied with any beneficial result, and there can be no effective administration under it. The recognition of organizations is the ruling principle of the measure, and it can have no effect whatever if the incentive to organization is to be destroyed. What inducement would there be to men to organize with a view to taking advantage of the provisions of the measure if no provision were made for giving preference to unionists? Who should have a preference if not those who have spent years and years in attempting to bring about reforms such as that now under consideration? Are those who have stood apart and have shared in the benefits for which others have fought to be placed upon an equal footing with unionists who have directed all their energies to bringing about better conditions of labour? I do not fully understand the arguments advanced by some honorable members sitting opposite. The honorable member for North Sydney would go to extremes such as were never contemplated by unionists. We do not suggest, as does the honorable member, that men should be forced into joining unions. The honorable; member for New England went still further, because he said that he would not only make every man join an industrial organization, but would authorize his employer to deduct from his wages the amount of his contribution to the union. Honorable members who are prepared to support this measure should certainly go the length of giving us their assistance in securing preference for unionists. The honorable and learned member for Corinella seems to have a penchant for drafting amendments which are likely to provide work for the lawyers. He proposes that the Court shall not direct preference to be given to members of organizations except as part of a common rule, and with the consent of such organizations and persons as, in the opinion of the Court, represent the majority of those engaged in an industry. I do not see that any advantage is to be gained by making such a proviso. The Court could not direct that preference should be given to unionists beyond the area covered by the common rule. They would never attempt to do any thing soidiotic as to extend it further.

Mr McCay - No one suggests that ; as a matter of fact I do not propose to move that portion of the amendment.

Mr WEBSTER - I find it very difficult to understand what really is proposed, because so many amendments have been placed before us and afterwards altered. The honorable member for Robertson objected to the general tendency of the Bill, and presented to us as illustrations a number of cases which demonstrated his utter ignorance of the application of the preference provision in the New South Wales Arbitration Act. If a dispute occurred in connexion with the railway services of New South Wales and Victoria, and a common rule were applied not only to those States but to others, do honorable members suppose that the men would be satisfied unless preference were given to unionists? In such an event no inducement would be afforded to the railway men to keep up the contributions to their unions, and to maintain the organizations which had been instrumental in bringing about improved conditions. If honorable members think that the railway servants who are members of unions will be content to be placed upon the same footing as others who are outside their organizations, they will find that they are mistaken.

Mr Mcwilliams - Does the honorable member mean to say that the Government should not employ a man unless he joined the union?

Mr WEBSTER - I do not say anything of the kind.

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