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Tuesday, 28 June 1904


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say nothing of the sort. What I say is that the honorable member will not allow certain men, who will not join a union, perhaps for the reasons I have given, to be represented at all. The Prime Minister said that, unless the unions get some privilege, they will not be likely to accept the Bill. But where is a privilege given to the non-unionists who comprise by far the larger number of the workers?


Sir Frazer - The non-unionist gets equal rights with the unionist.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where is a privilege given to the non-unionist? He is to be bound by the Bill, and to be punished if he strikes ; but he is not to be allowed to have a voice unless he belongs to a body which, for some good reason or other, he has not hitherto been willing to join. The proposal of the honorable and learned member for Angas is not that any unionist shall be excluded. Every unionist can be a member of an organization, formed for the purposes pf the Act, and the Minister of External Affairs has stated that his contribution for such a purpose would be exceedingly trifling, and not more than he would be likely to have to pay additionally to his own union if it was made an organization under the. Bill. Under that plan the necessary fund could be created. Rather than do an injustice to a great number of men I would not care whether there was a fund or not, because I do not look much to the security it would provide. For this purpose the Minister has said that a farthing per head would be sufficient.


Mr Hughes - While I said that a Jd. per head per week would be plenty, I did not say it would provide the machinery for collecting the money, looking after it, and so on.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We can easily estimate that the very small sum per week drawn from a much larger number of members than is comprised in the unions would be quite sufficient to cover the expenditure, and to gradually create a fund under the amendment. In my proposal, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has objected, I did suggest that had it been possible at this time to weave it into the texture of the Bill, a very simple means of collection was available - one not unknown to the Courts now, and not unknown by arrangement with employes now, such as deductions for accident insurance funds.


Mr Hughes - I believe that our union has taken one case to Court, and had twenty or thirty penalty cases at a cost of 2 s. per head per annum.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no doubt that the amount must be comparatively small. My proposal was simply to give the Court power to collect a contribution from the men' through the medium of the employer, and to receive from the employer a similar contribution. That is done by the Courts now in a number of cases.


Mr Hughes - Would the honorable member compel an employe or an employer to pav?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Most certainly I would compel him to pay in a case where a dispute had arisen, and an organization had been created. Why not? It would not be compelling him to pay nearly so much - in fact, a mere fraction of what the Bill would compel him to pay if the Court decided, that a preference should be given to unionists.


Mr Hughes - The Bill does not compel anyone to pay.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I accept the Minister's use of that phrase, but the Bill empowers the Court to give a preference to unionists, and a man cannot' be a unionist unless he has paid his entrance and subscription fees, and that would amount to a very much larger sum per annum than would the contribution made for the purposes of the Act only. Let me describe the sort of thing which may arise when preference has been given in a number of callings to unionists. Men who want work badly may come to the city, and turn to unskilled labour on the wharfs. But before they can obtain employment thev must send in an application to join the union, and must, borrow or beg 10s. to pay their subscription, and await their election. , Even when a man obtains admission to the union possibly he may secure but little work. The Minister of External Affairs has stated that the members of the Wharf Labourers' Union in Sydney have not earned, on the average, more than 15s. per week for some time. A new comer in that union would probably obtain very little employment. He might find work in some other direction, and would then have to join another union. He would have to spend -some of his time in making his application, and he would also have to pay his entrance fee and subscription to that- union. If the fees were so reduced that it would not be difficult for a man to find the moneys - and it would not be difficult if the organization were intended to fulfil only the purposes of the Bill - men would be assisted, instead of being hampered, in that most trying of 'all occupations, the search for work. The amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Angas might very well receive the support of honorable members opposite. Those who oppose it, in effect, declare that the Bill is designed in the interests of the minority of the community. I do not, however, take that view. The Bill will be of benefit only if it serve the needs of the larger number. I desire to refer to one or two statements made by the Prime Minister. He said that for the purposes of the Bill we required organizations, whose members would be bound together by the ties of interest and sympathy. I do not for a moment reflect on the existing unions ; but I say that stronger ties of sympathy would exist between those engaged in one calling, or, it might be, in one employment.


Mr Watson - Does the honorable member mean that their sympathies would be stronger because they were engaged in the same calling?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Surely their interests would be identical?


Mr Watson - That is not the only consideration.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Their sympathies would also be stronger. Men who work alongside each other, perhaps for many years, are more likely to be in sympathy than are men who perhaps rarely, if ever, meet, although they are fellowmembers of a trades organization. I believe that this Bill would have been made a stronger measure, and would have been more likely to prove successful, if it had gone further, and had aimed at dealing, not merely' with one section, but with all sections, of the employes in the industries over which it will exercise control. The Prime Minister also said that the influence exerted by the unions was very strong, and would doubtless be used for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the Bill. I quite admit that ' the circumstances connected with the Teralba case to a large extent support his statement. In that instance the officials of the union, from first to last, opposed the action of the men, and advised them to resume work. I would point out, however, that in spite of the enormous pressure exerted by the officials, supported by probably nine-tenths of the coal-miners of the district, the small body of miners at Teralba refused to yield.


Mr Watson - For a fortnight.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No; I believe it was fully three weeks. I have the particulars.


Mr Watson - I say it was only fourteen or fifteen days.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I contend that the period during which work was suspended was . three weeks. However, that does not matter. The men stood out until others were being put into the mine, and they had either to resume their places, just as in the case of other strikes which break down, or lose their employment.


Mr Watson - The officials did nothing to prevent unionists from going into the mine.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit that they acted in perfect good faith.


Mr Hughes - The Delegate Boards throughout the district stated that if . the strikers did not go to work they would put them out of the union.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Other men were being called in, and the work was going on without the strikers. The intense feeling which made these men resist the influence of their officers, who were working faithfully to carry out the purposes of the Act, and who were supported by nine out of every ten ' men in the district, afford me reason to fear for the success of the Bill. My belief is that' if the Teralba dispute had affected the whole of the miners in the Newcastle district, numbering many thousands, and the same intense feeling had been general, no provision under this or any other Bil] would ever have induced them to go to work. I would point out that, by including in an organization the whole of those engaged in an industry affected by a dispute, we should embrace not merely the extremists - either the extremely subservient or the extremely independent and pushing - but the average men engaged in that calling. If we desire to maintain the provisions of such a Bill as this we shall have to depend on the average good sense of both sides - employers and. employes. I have already stated that there is no intention to destroy the unions. They can continue to fulfil the purposes for which they have existed in the past, and can continue their activity. They can leaven the organizations formed for the purposes of this Bill, or, if others do not move, they can be at first, at any rate, the only organizations registered under the Bill.


Mr Spence - Not if the amendment is carried. The object of the amendment is to shut them out.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nonsense ! Nothing of the sort. The amendment proposes that the organizations recognised shall be organizations for the purposes of the Bill.


Mr Watson - Does not that shut out all those unions which are not organizations for the purposes of the Bill ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Certainly not.


Mr Batchelor - No trades union would become an organization for the purposes of the Bill.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, I say, that if, because of the amendment, no trades unions became organizations for the purposes of the Bill, the unionists would show that they were determined not to come under the Bill unless they could force men into their unions for benefit and political purposes.


Mr Watson - The honorable member is not justified in implying that the provisions of the Bill would force men into the unions. It will be the Court's decision that will do that, if that result is brought about at all.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not the least objection to hear the target ring when the shots go home, so that I do nor mind these interjections. There is no intention on the part of the honorable and learned member for Angas to exclude unionists in any way. Unless the amendment is carried, non-unionists would be excluded, because they do not need the benefits conferred by the unions, or are opposed to their political objects. If the trades unions as such retained their objects relating to benefits or politics, and formed or joined an organization for the purposes of the Bill, with the small contribution which will be required to carry out its intentions - which would probably be required from the members of the unions, in any case - they would not exclude any persons from the organizations. In the other case, however, they would exclude, not merely the smaller, but the larger proportion of the workers. That, I think, is evidenced in New Zealand, where, after some years of experience, the unions, instead of gaining in strength, are becoming reduced in numbers in proportion to the workers outside. I do not like to hear the threat that if the amendment be carried the Bill will never be availed of -by the trades unions.


Mr Batchelor - That is not a threat ;' it is a mere statement of fact.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is a threat, because a statement of fact can be made only in regard to something that has happened.


Mr Tudor - The honorable member is merely bringing about what he desires.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I never pay much attention to professions of honesty on the part of others who are not prepared to credit with honesty those who differ from them. I have made no secret as to my actual position with regard to this Bill. I have said that I should not attempt to destroy it by a side-wind. I believe that it is a complete farce, because it is constructed in such a manner that it will never prove effective. Honorable members are now beginning to see this.


Mr Watson - Those honorable members who are opposed to the measure are beginning to see it.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Ministers have had warning from the first. The Prime Minister argues at one time that the measure is intended for the settlement of disputes which extend beyond any one State, and the next minute we hear him stating that certain provisions are to operate in regard to disputes restricted to a State.


Mr Watson - I do not remember having made any such contradictory remarks.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Prime Minister will look up his speeches he will find that what I say is correct.


Mr Watson - I invite the honorable member to produce the speeches.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Surely the honorable member does not wish me to produce them at once?


Mr Watson - No; but I dispute the honorable member's assertion.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Either two-thirds of the Bill will be worthless, or it is intended to operate in regard to dis.putes other than those which extend beyond any one State. The proposal contained in the amendment is a good one, and I believe that it will operate in the direction of making the measure effective. If the principle of conciliation and arbitration is to be effectively applied in times of stress, when wages have to go down, as well as at times when they go up - and the former will be the time of stress - we must secure the support not only of a small minority, but of the great majority of the workers and employers of Australia.







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