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Tuesday, 28 June 1904

Mr LONSDALE (New England) - The honorable member for Darling speaks so nicely and so quietly that one scarcely likes to differ from him, or to raise any objection to what he says. He has told us that the union he represented was not political, and that they discarded certain rules indicated as political as quickly as ever they could. They discarded those rules when they learnt that the Registrar would not register them unless they were taken out.

Mr Spence - That is not correct. They were registered when those rules were in.

Mr LONSDALE - The Registrar refused unless those rules were taken out, and a plebiscite of the members of the union had to be taken to have them struck out. The honorable member knows that, unless those rules were taken out they could not be registered, and they are not registered in New South Wales to-day.

Mr Spence - I rise to a point of order. The honorable member must allow me to correct him. It is not accurate to say that the union could not be registered until those rules were taken out. It was registered with those rules in, and no objection was taken to them on- registration.

Mr Kennedy - But the Court refused to cancel the registration of another union in the same industry.

Mr Spence - That is a different matter.

Mr LONSDALE - As a matter of fact, I do not believe that the Australian Workers' Union is registered to-day as an industrial union in New South Wales, and I believe it never has been registered.

Mr Spence - The honorable member is not in order in implying that I am making a statement that is incorrect. I say that the Australian Workers' Union is registered ; that it was registered when the objectionable rules formed a part of its constitution. They were not objected to when it was registered, and the union is registered now.

The CHAIRMAN - I understood the honorable member for New England to say


that he did not know the Australian Workers' Union was registered.

Mr Spence - The honorable member said he did not believe it was.

Mr LONSDALE - I must accept the statement of the honorable member for Darling ; but I shall look it up.

The CHAIRMAN - Order !

Mr LONSDALE - I, of course, accept the honorable member's statement ; but my memory at the present time' is that the union is not registered. I know that they had to alter the rules before they could be registered.

Mr Spence - I can show the honorable member the certificate of registration.

Mr LONSDALE - It may have been that, if the rules objected to had been continued, the registration would have been cancelled.

Mr Kelly - The Australian Workers' Union applied to the Court for the cancellation of the Machine Shearers' Union on the ground that there was already an organization in existence in the industry, and the application was refused because of these rules being adopted by the Australian Workers' Union.

Mr LONSDALE - That is the position; and then the Australian Workers' Union tried to get the cancellation of the Machine Shearers' Union again, and could not succeed, after the rules objected to had been taken out, for some other reason, probably because there were other political rules adopted by the Australian Workers' Union.

Mr Spence - No objection was taken to', these political rules.

Mr LONSDALE - We are being told that we desire to destroy the unions. I have no wish to destroy the unions. We are being told that unionists are giving up some privilege. What privilege are they giving up? They have no privilege by law to strike.

Mr Hughes - Yes, they have.

Mr LONSDALE - The law does not say that they can strike, but we know that a man can leave another man's service if hs pleases. There is no privilege in it at all. But when honorable members representing unionists come here and ask for particular privileges by law, it is our duty to see that people who are outside the unions are put in the same position, and that it is made absolutely clear that every man shall have the right to employment ; that there shall be no restriction against his getting employment. A man can belong to 500 unions if he likes, we have nothing to do with that ; but if he comes here to get some privilege by law - and we provide in this Bil] that the Court may give a preference to unionists - then it is our duty to see that the unions shall be wide open, and that they must not be political bodies. Why should any man, in order to get a living, be compelled to join a union which may have political objects, of which he does not approve? Whether we are unionists or non-unionists there is no answer to the contention that, as a Legislature, we have no right to put any difficulties in the way of any man getting a living. Honorable members opposite talk of the'ir altruism, and the self-sacrifice of unionists for others,* but every argument I have heard them use is to the effect that, " We have made sacrifices, but we do not desire that others shall get the advantage of them. We have made sacrifices for ourselves." That is actually their position. What honorable members opposite, and those whom they represent, are fighting for is that, by law, unionists shall have all power and non-unionists be left to starve, or do anything else they please, for what they care. We are here, every one of us, to guard against that. I say we should treat all men alike. We hear talk of Toryism, but real Toryism is the giving of special privileges to certain men. The men who should be fighting for liberty for all are fighting for the fullest freedom for one set of men, and no freedom at all for others; and they call themselves Liberals and Democrats. That is simply a misuse of terms. It is the greatest Toryism to give special privileges to any men. We have been told that the pressure of the local union was used to induce the Teralba men to return to work after they had gone out on strike. May I say that the award did not involve any punishment in that particular case, and that the men would not go to work for all the pressure of the union. The employers were then urged to punish them by law for having violated their contract, and at last the employes yielded, and on the very day they were to appear before the Court they agreed to resume work. Let us put the thing on right lines. The men yielded, not to the pressure of the union, but to the pressure of the law, when they found they were summoned for having violated their contract. What possible objection can there be to the amendment? Let these organizations be absolutely free for men to join, so that all men may have an opportunity of getting a living. 1 do not care what is the -wording of the amendment .if it is made clear that there will be nothing to deter men from joining organizations, and that there will be no utilizing of the organizations for political purposes, or that otherwise they shall get no preference, or shall not be registered, or that, if registered, their registration shall be cancelled. I am not here to crush unions. I say let them go on. I believe they are doing a great deal of good. I admit that there are splendid men in the unions, but there are as good men outside. I admit that there are bad men outside the unions, but there are just as bad in the unions. Human nature is exactly the same, whether it is unionist or non-unionist, and, as far as I am concerned, I shall be doing my duty in seeking to give a means of living to every man in this land of ours. I take up the position that we should not give special privileges to any body, and, in doing so, I hold that I am a Liberal, and that I am carrying out liberal principles.

Mr. KELLY(Wentworth).- At this hour I think it would be but "a fair thing " if the debate were adjourned until to-morrow. I am not actually prepared to speak on the question, but if the debate must go on I suppose I must speak.

Sir William Lyne - Why should it not go on ?

Mr KELLY - Well, for one thing, I should like to hear the views of the honorable gentleman upon the matter. We have not so far had a chance, even by way of interjection, to discover what he thinks on the subject.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member should not, as a young member, try to stop business of this kind.

Mr KELLY - I have no wish to stop the business, but I think .the debate might be adjourned. If the Prime Minister does not agree I must continue the debate. I am heartily in accord with the amendment. If we look at the history of unions we will find that they were first of all based on the idea of collective bargaining, to gain what could not be gained by individual bargaining. Then there came a time, and the honorable member for Darling will bear me out in this, when men banded themselves together in unions for the purpose of securing the influence of persons in Parliament for the' betterment of their conditions.

Mr Spence - Where did they do that ?

Mr KELLY - I think that was one of the objects of the Australian Workers'

Union, and I can have no - better authority on the subject than (he honorable member for Darling. I think that must be pretty obvious to so old a campaigner as the honorable member. I hold that these objects are perfectly legitimate. The object, in the first instance, of the old trades unionism was to prevent sweating.. The object of the new trades unionism is also perfectly legitimate. There is no reason why men should not band themselves together to collectively exercise the suffrage. Now the- Parliament is prepared apparently to go beyond that stage to the third stageof industrial evolution, when it is proposed to secure industrial peace absolutely by means of the Federal Arbitration Court. Surely the objects for which trades unions were created have gone, now that we are placing an omniscient Justice of the High Court in the position of Judge of the Arbitration Court, to decide all questions of wages and all conditions of living. The only reason for keeping the unions in existence will be to carrv out what may be termed friendly society objects, the providing of funds for the support of wives and children ' when the breadwinners go or are laid aside. Non-unionists, however, often belong to benefit societies, pure and simple, and if they were compelled to join the existing trades unions, would have ' to subscribe to those objects twice over. They number more than those in the unions, and we have no right . to so compel them. I wish now to say a word or two in reply to the honorable member for Darling. He has told us that the subscription to the Australian Workers' Union is 10s. a year,, of which rs. is credited to the political fund. It will be generally conceded that shearers, as a class, work for only a short period in each year, so that the members of the Australian Workers' Union pay approximately is. a week to the union for every week that they are working. That union, we are told, is the only political union in New South Wales ; but that it is not increasingly popular is shown, by the fact that in 1902 its members numbered almost 21,000, while in 1904 they numbered barely11,500, a falling off of nearly 50 per cent.

Mr Spence - That is accounted for by a falling off of nearly 20,000,000 in the number of sheep to be shorn.

Mr KELLY - A rival union, the Machine Shearers' and Shed Employés'

Union,which I believe is positive anathema to the honorable member, has increased 500 per cent.

Mr Tudor - Is that the union of which one of the secretaries committed suicide the' other week?

Mr KELLY - I forget whether the official referred to was a secretary. Under the Bill it is proposed to nationalize the business of union secretaries. I shall be the last to support the nationalization of a very commendable industry ; but the Court will probably find it more practicable to administer the work now done by union secretaries and agitators;

Mr Wilson - Does the honorable member call the work of a union secretary an industry ?

Mr KELLY - It is a considerable industry. The honorable member for Darling told us that he could cause a dispute to spread from some domestic circle in Sydneyall the way to Melbourne.

Mr Spence - The honorable member for North Sydney also spoke of the ease with which a dispute could be caused to spread.

Mr KELLY - The members of the Machine Shearers' and Shed Employes' Union number 2,757, an. increase of 500 per cent, upon their number in 1902, whereas the number of the Australian Workers' Union 'has decreased by 50 percent.. Thus the members of the political union do not- appear to place great store upon their privileges.' The proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney is that the Court should, through the employers, keep back a proportion of every employe's wage, and register that employl as an employé in a particular, industry. The honorable member for Darling followed with a harrowing picture of the impracticability of the administration by . the Court of all the details of a union organizer's work. He is quite prepared to hand over to the State the administration of the details of the tobacco business, but the very much more important duties of a unionist organizer and perambulating agitator he thinks could not with safety be left to the Court to perform.

Mr Tudor - Would the Court . have to organize the Emplovers' Federation, too ?

Mr KELLY - The Employers' Federation, if it has any political rules, should, I think, not be allowed to enjoy the benefits of this measure.

Mr Tudor - In that case Mr. Walpole would- not be able to. go about declaring marriage to be a luxury to the workers.

Mr KELLY - I always understood that that view was only held by German Socialists.

Mr Tudor - Wo ; it is held by the Employers' Federation here.

Mr KELLY - I did not know that it was held by any persons of conservative tendency in this country. We were told this evening by the Minister of External Affairs that a contribution of £d- or J-d. per head per week would easily meet the expenses resultant on a union being brought under the Act. If that amount were deducted from the wages of the men, and returned straight to headquarters, and brought under the administration of the Registrar, there would be required, on the average, one clerk for probably 5,000 men. .At the present time a union running from 100 to 800 members; even this rapidly decreasing union, with its 11,000 members, requires a secretary and its officials. The smallest union requires its secretary to be paid at from ,£100 to about ^280 a year. One clerk could do the work of ten secretaries, because it would all be combined and simplified. So that, far from this entailing an increased cost to the employe^ it would effect a. very great saving to him. If the unions wished to keep together and run their benefit projects, by all manner, of means let them do so. But they would still be a body within a body. They would be a benefit organization or a union - whatever they might choose to call themselves - within a general organization, which alone men could be compelled to join. It seems to me that this is really the crux of the question. ' The amendment would npt "Interfere in the least degree with the rights of unions. They could still maintain their benefit projects. Their old power to strike would df course lie gone, "willy nilly," the moment that the Act was brought into operation. Perhaps at this hour the Prime Minister will consent to progress being reported.

Mr Watson - I do not suppose that the honorable member intends to speak much longer.

Mr KELLY - I do not wish to speak much longer.

Mr Watson - In that case, perhaps, if no one else wishes to speak, we might get to a vote.

Mr. DUGALDTHOMSON (North Sydney). - There are other honorable members who wish to speak. It will be remembered that when I was speaking this evening there was a question between the Prime Minister and myself as to the duration bf the. Teralba strike. Speaking from _ memory; I was under the impression that it lasted for three weeks; while he, also speaking from memory, was under the impression that it lasted for a fortnight. I said that I would refer to documents I .have to show the period. I find that the honorable gentleman was right in the statement that he made. Although I do not think that it affects my argument in any way, still I consider it only right to make this explanation to the Committee. I would suggest to the honorable gentleman that he might well agree to progress being reported now. Progress reported.

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