Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 29 June 1904

Mr MCDONALD (Kennedy) - If the amendment were carried it would practically render the best part of the Bill of no avail. I take it that the Bill has been framed practically to endeavour to induce men to join organizations, because it is only by means of organizations that awards can be enforced. The amendment, however, would destroy organizations, and in that way destroy the principal object of the Bill. The honorable member for Wentworth, in about the fiftieth second-reading speech that he has delivered on this measure, has talked of many matters of which he knows absolutely nothing. He speaks of the Machine Shearers' Union as a respectable body of men ; but every one knows that they are nothing more than the paid satellites of interested parties. Does he mean to tell me that they could have fought the law cases which they have fought upon a subscription of half-a-crown per member?

Mr Watson - They have received funds from the squatters.

Mr MCDONALD - They have obtained money from the squatters and pastoralists, who are interested parties, and who before to-day have not been behind -hand in bribing men to give evidence to get others into gaol.

Mr Wilson - That is a serious charge.

Mr MCDONALD - It is; but I can prove it. If I could not prove it, I would not make it.

Mr Conroy - If the charge is true, those to whom it applies are guilty of conspiracy at common law.

Mr MCDONALD - I know of a man who, in the first instance, refused to give evidence on a certain occasion ; but, in a balance-sheet which I have in my possession, there is shown an item of ,£200 granted to him. Why was that money paid to him?

Mr Kelly - Why has the membership of the Machine Shearers' Union increased by 500 per cent, during the last two years?

Mr MCDONALD - I will explain why that bogus union was started. Some years ago the trades unions were told that their members had no right to strike; that a strike was practically an act of civil war, which brought disaster upon the whole community. Our proper course, it was said, was to endeavour to redress our grievances by constitutional methods, by sending men into Parliament to represent our views. But directly the trades unions became political organizations, they encountered the en - mit-v of the capitalists and their satellites, who did all they could to break down their growing power.

Mr Wilson - That the Australian Workers' Union is not a growing power is proved by the fact that its membership has decreased in two years from 20,000 to about 11,000.

Mr McDONALD - If the honorable member will look at this morning's newspaper, and read the result of the elections in Western Australia, he will see that the Labour Party is a growing power there.

Mr Tudor - The result of the recent Victorian elections proved it to be a growing power here.

Mr McDONALD - Yes, and the result of the last Federal elections proved it to be a growing power throughout the Commonwealth. A short time ago, it would have been deemed impossible that a Labour Ministry should be intrusted with the conduct of Australian affairs of State, but that is the position to-day.

Mr Conroy - The Labour Party had not then declared, by supporting an Arbitration Bill such as we are now considering, that non-unionists were not to be permitted to live; because if they are not permitted to work they cannot live.

Mr McDONALD - The honorable and learned member, the honorable members for Wentworth and New England, and one or two more, are wreckers. They have told usthat they will vote for any amendment which will wreck the Bill.

Mr Kelly - I have not said so.

Mr McDONALD - Then, the honorable member is a little wiser than the others, though that is the line of actnn which he has taken. It has repeatedly been said that if the Bill is passed, nonunionists will be unable to live. But what happened after the great maritime strike, and the great shearers' strike? The very people on whose behalf honorable members opposite are advocating the claims of nonunionists discharged their non-unionist employes as soon as the strike was over, to take on unionist employes. The employers have repeatedly declared that the best men are generally to be found in trades unions or other labour organizations. It is idle to say that if the Bill is passed non-unionists will be unable to live. They have every opportunity to join unions. For a union to close its books is childish. When we have been defeated in a strike, it has generally been by those to whom admission has been refused. I have always held that it is not the duty of those who control unions to ascertain the fitness of the workmen who wish to join them; that is the business of the employers. The object of those who control unions should be to get as many men as possible to join, so as to organize the industry. Honorable gentlemen opposite appear to fear that those who are now nonunionists will be driven into labour organi-' zations, and used for political purposes. Since 1890, when the new unionism came into existence, it has been a political movement.

Mr Poynton - We were told to go to Parliament for 'reform.

Mr McDONALD - Yes. Unionism is now a political as well as an industrial movement. I do not see how the two can be separated.

Mr Lonsdale - They can be separated.

Mr McDONALD - The old unionism could do nothing to effect reforms. So long as the capitalists sat tight, they could defeat the unionists in every case. But when the unions obtained political power, the capitalists found it necessary to rise in arms against them. Now they hold that everything that is bad is connected with trades unionism.

Mr Conroy - Is the condition of the worker to-day better than it was ten years ago?

Mr McDONALD - The capitalist is as able to 'fleece the worker to-day as he was ten or twenty years ago ; but ' one of the great obstacles to reform has been removed by the granting of an equal franchise. The right to. vote will be wielded by the unionists in such a way that in the future capitalists will not be able to fleece the workers as they have done in the past. To-day the worker labours four days of the week for his employer and two days for himself. The honorable member for Wentworth and others would like to maintain that state c-f things.

Mr Skene - The worker may not be employed at a profit during part of the time in which he is working for his employer.

Mr McDONALD - That may be so in isolated cases, which I have not time to take into consideration now; Iam dealing with the subject 'at large. We know that wealth is increasing day by day, but it is not going into the pockets of the' workers.

Mr Conroy - What, then, has become of the£50,000,000 borrowed by the States, and spent upon unproductive works ?

Mr MCDONALD - That has nothing to do with my subject. The object of the amendment is to practically wreck the Bill, or to make it as useless as possible.

Mr Knox - That is not true.

Mr MCDONALD - The honorable member cannot say that he honestly believes in conciliation and arbitration.

Mr Knox - Yes, I do.

Mr MCDONALD - Then he must have very crude notions on the subject.

Mr Knox - My ideas are just as practical as are those of the honorable member.

Mr MCDONALD - I hope that, at all events, the standard adopted by the Committee with regard to the means necessary to secure industrial peace will be higher than those of the honorable member. If he believes in the amendment, which would practically preclude the' whole of the existing trades unions from becoming recognised under the Bill, and necessitate the formation of new organizations, I cannot come to any other conclusion than that his desire is to wreck the Bill. If our object is to secure industrial peace, let us deal with the Bill in a fair and honest way. and not follow the dishonest and fraudulent methods adopted by the honorable member for Wentworth and other honorable members who entertain the same views.

Mr Kelly - I rise to a point of order. I have been accused by the honorable member for Kennedy of dishonesty .and fraud. I would ask that that statement should be withdrawn.

Mr MCDONALD - If the honorable member takes my statement personally, I must withdraw it.

Mr Kelly - I could- not help taking it personally, because the honorable member mentioned my name.

Mr MCDONALD - I say that the action of the honorable member in connexion with the Bill does not permit me to form any other conclusion .than that which I have indicated.

Mr Kelly - I ask that the honorable member should be requested to withdraw his statement.

Mr MCDONALD - The honorable member must know that I am only speaking politically!. I trust that the amendment will not be carried, because it will make the Bill useless. It is ridiculous to suppose that the whole of the trades unions in Australia will alter their constitutions merely for the purpose of coming under the Bill, which would probably apply to only two or three of them. I think they would be very foolish indeed to adopt any such course, and I should certainly so advise the very large bodies with which I am connected.

Mr Conroy - Surely they will have to come under the Bill, whether they like it or not. If not, the measure will be useless.

Mr MCDONALD - If by any possibility the existing unions can avoid coming under the operation of the Bill, I shall certainly do everything in my power to dissuade them from rendering themselves subject to its provisions. I consider that if they did so it would be detrimental to them, and also inimical to industrial peace. One of the employers' organizations has already spent thousands of pounds in establishing a bogus organization for the express purpose of defeating the objects of the New South Wales Arbitration Act. The political Chief Justice of New South Wales, who recently gave a decision relating to that bogus union, must have known that it was a fraud.

Mr Kelly - What does the honorable member mean by a political- Chief Justice ?

Mr MCDONALD - I refer to the Chief Justice of New South Wales, who, by his action, has declared himself to be a political Judge. If the New South Wales Government have any grit they will at once suspend him.

Mr Kelly - The honorable member seems to forget that two other Judges concurred with Chief Justice Darley ; are they also political Judges?

Mr MCDONALD - The other two Judges referred to did not take up the same position as the Chief Justice. Their remarks dealt with the question of law that was submitted for their decision; but the Chief Justice went beyond that, and, so far as an ordinary man can observe, took the part of a strong political advocate.

Mr Conroy - On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I would draw -attention to the fact that the honorable member is discussing a matter that does not seem to come within the scope of the clause.

Mr McDonald - I may point out that the honorable member for Wentworth is responsible for the introduction of this subject into the debate.

Mr Kelly - I simply quoted a judgment of the Court, whereas the honorable member has gone beyond that, and "has applied hard names to the Chief Justice of New South Wales,

Mr McDonald - The honorable member dragged in the subject to suit his own party ends, and thereby adopted a most despicable method' of argument.

The CHAIRMAN - I would point out that, although the Chief Justice of New South Wales is not an officer of the Commonwealth, it would perhaps be in better taste if honorable members were to refrain from discussing his conduct. If he were a Commonwealth officer, honorable members would be precluded by the Standing Orders from referring to his conduct, except in connexion with a substantive motion. I think it would be better if the action of the Judges of the States were not made the subject of further discussion here.

Mr MCDONALD - I quite agree with you, Mr. Chairman, that perhaps it is not good taste to make such references as you. have mentioned, but I cannot help the bad taste displayed by the honorable member for Wentworth, who introduced the subject. He introduced the matter in order to serve purely party purposes.

The CHAIRMAN - I do not accuse the honorable member of having initiated the discussion; I simply ask him not to continue it.

Mr MCDONALD - I think that I am justified, under the circumstances, in referring to the statements made by the honorable member for Wentworth. I do not, however, intend to pursue the matter any further. I trust that the amendment will not be carried.

Suggest corrections