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Tuesday, 28 June 1904

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) - I move -

That the following words be added : - " In any case in which the Court directs that preference shall be given it may subsequently suspend or qualify the direction for such time or subject to such conditions as it thinks fit if it be proved that the rules of the organization are burdensome or oppressive or do not provide reasonable conditions foi admission to or continuance in membership or that the organization has acted unfairly or unjustly to any of its members in the matter of preference."

In speaking at an earlier stage of the debate upon this clause, I pointed out that, whilst I did not wish to- go to the extreme length of voting against preference altogether, because to do so might impair the efficiency of the scheme, I desired that it should be surrounded with certain safeguards and securities to prevent its operating injuriously or oppressively, it might be, to those workmen who were not members of a registered organization. The tendency of I he clause would naturally be to force men to join the organizations. We have recently noticed what the effect was in a case in Sydney in connexion with the Wharf Labourers' Union. It occurred to me that when men entered organizations under pressure, so to speak, they might not receive that fair play to which they are undoubtedly entitled. I have been shown clauses in awards made by the New South Wales Arbitration Court, in which the secretaries of the registered organizations are required to prepare lists of their members who are capable and willing to accept work. These lists are produced to the employers, and the workmen are picked out from them. I think it is quite possible that in the preparation of these lists, Which practically place the patronage in the distribution of employment in the hands of the secretaries of the unions, rather than in the hands of the employers themselves, a certain amount of favoritism might creep, in, and that, perhaps, men who were not in the inner circle of a trades union might be elbowed out of work, while those who were in the confidence of the union might receive preference from the union officials in obtaining employment. That is the reason why I am anxious that if, after, a preference has been conceded by the Court, it is found that the rules of a union are unjust, or oppressive, or that any workmen are treated unfairly or harshly bv the timors, those who have ground for complaint mayhave a legal right to ask the Court in a summary manner to suspend or modify the preference. The Court would then dictate terms to the trades union. If it found that the union had exercised the preference in an unfair way, or that the effect of its exercise would be unfair, the Court might suspend the preference, and if necessary wipe it out altogether. I can see no reasonable objection to a modification such as this, which does not in any way impair the efficiency of the grant of preference, but merely provides that if, after the grant of preference, it is found that an organization is acting in a tyrannical or aggressive manner, the Court may interfere to stop it. That is only a fair power to give to the Court, and no reasonably minded trades unionist could object to such a modification of the clause.

Mr WATSON - I have no objection to the amendment. I had already indicated a willingness to accept from the honorable and learned member for Ballarat an amendment of an almost similar purport, though certainly it was proposed to insert it at a later stage in the Bill. The effect aimed at in this amendment is the same. The feeling the Government have in this matter is that there should not be an attempt to make a union a close corporation, or at any rate, that if such an attempt is made, it should not be assisted by the provisions of this measure. We are quite at one with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo and other honorable members in that view. I am, therefore, quite prepared to accept the amendment.

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