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Tuesday, 5 July 1904

Mr POYNTON (Grey) - I rise chiefly in order to raise a protest against the unfair attitude assumed by the honorable and learned member for Wannon in the comparison which he has endeavoured to institute between the Amalgamated Miners' Association and the Australian Natives' Association. I am a member of both organiza tions, and I am in a position to say that the honorable and learned member has either exhibited the grossest ignorance of the rules of the former body, or deliberately misrepresented the position. The honorable and learned member should have known that the Australian Natives' Association provides for sick pay and for funeral allowances for members of the family under sixteen years, and that the Amalgamated Miners' Association makes no provision for sick pay. He should also be aware of the fact that the 26s. per year which he quotes as the contribution required for each member of the Amalgamated Miners' Association, is0 paid into a fund used solely for the purposes of providing benefits in cases of accident, and that, apart from this, a special levy has to be made upon every member of the association to provide for funeral expenses. I think it is a pity that an irresponsible person should be in a position to traduce an association that has done more to assist its members in time of trouble than the Australian Natives' Association has ever done. The Amalgamated Miners' Association has paid away hundreds of thousands of pounds to assist miners who have met with accidents, and also a very large sum in the form of funeral allowances. They have assisted thousands of distressed men whom the Australian Natives' Associa- tion would not accept as members. The latter association requires all its members to pass a medical examination, but no such stipulation is made by the Amalgamated Miners' Association. The honorable and learned member should not try to advertise the Australian Natives' Association at the expense of the Amalgamated Miners' Association, or endeavour to create want of confidence in the latter institution. If the honorable and learned member had known as much as I do about the benefits which have been derived from membership of the Amalgamated Miners' Association - to which business people can abundantly testify - he probably would not have spoken disparagingly of it.

Mr Robinson - All I say is that the Amalgamated Miners' Association is not upon a sound actuarial basis.

Mr POYNTON - I contend that it is upon as sound an actuarial basis as is the Australian Natives' Association.

Mr Robinson - Can the honorable member tell me what actuary certifies to that fact ?

Mr POYNTON - Does not the honorable and learned member see that there is a vast difference between the conditions of the two associations? The organization to which the honorable and learned member belongs provides for benefits in cases of sickness, whereas the Amalgamated Miners' Association makes provision only- for cases of accident.

Mr Robinson - Surely the basis upon which that provision should be made is a question for an actuary to determine. .

Mr POYNTON - The fact cannot .be denied that these organizations have met all demands that have been made upon them. They have disbursed hundreds of thousands of pounds in funeral allowances. This money has been provided by means of levies upon their members - a fact which the honorable and learned member studiously ignored.

Mr Watson - He was not aware of it. Mr. POYNTON.- The omission resulted either from gross ignorance or from a desire to deliberately misrepresent the real position. I am absolutely astounded at the extraordinary interest which is being manifested in the welfare of non-unionists. Unfortunately the rules of Parliament prevent me from describing that individual as I should like to do. As a matter of fact, the average non-unionist is a parasite, who lives upon trades organizations. He is ever ready to participate in any reform which may be achieved by them. Twentyseven years' experience of trades organizations induces me to say that in every instance in which the conditions of labour have been improved, these (Organizations take the initiative. On the other hand, what has been accomplished bv the nonunionist? Nothing. Every great reform which has been effected in Australia has been the result of trades unionism.

Mr Robinson - On the voluntary principle.

Mr POYNTON - Honorable members opposite, however, appear to have discovered some phenomenal good in the nonunionist. Speaking of the average individual of that class, I say that he is ever ready to accept an increase of wage or an improvement in the conditions of labour, but he is not prepared to fight for them. If a unionist sacrifices his position, he is always ready to jump into it. That is the sort of creature whose cause honorable members opposite are championing. I have seen the gaols of some of our great cities practically emptied of the criminal class for the purpose of crushing trades unionism. What has trades unionism done to justify the violent attack which is being made upon it ? Is not the real reason underlying the opposition to this Bill to be found in the fact that a Labour Ministry is in power ? How is it that honorable members opposite are prepared to repudiate the provisions of the very measure which was introduced by the late Government, and supported by them? I do not think that in Australian politics another instance can be found of exMinister after ex-Minister voting against their own Bill. So far as some members of the late Government are concerned, it is upon record that they have not once voted in favour of the provisions of this measure, although had they remained in power., they would have made it appear that they believed in them. Why do they not come out from behind their kopjes and fight fairly? Let them attack the Government in a straightforward manner, and accept thi responsibility for their actions. Why do they continue a guerilla method of warfare ? 1 have no special desire to sit upon this side of the Chamber - I would just as soon occupy a seat upon the Opposition benches. The moment that the occupants of those benches can demonstrate that they number a majority of this Committee, members of the Labour Party are prepared to change places with them. I confess that it makes my blood boil to hear so gross an attack made upon trades unionism. It has accomplished infinitely more for the advancement of political and other reforms than has ever been accomplished by- non-unionists. Under the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Angas a trades union would be prevented from establishing even an accident fund or a funeral allowance. Some honorable members ask - " Why cannot the members of trades unions form themselves into a separate organization?" Do they realize what is involved in such a proposal It practically means organizing the workers afresh over the entire continent. Hitherto, when necessity drove the workers to strike, we have been asked, " Why do they not exercise lawful means to secure a redress of their grievances?" But now that we are endeavouring to secure industrial peace by means of arbitration, an attempt is made to hedge the Bill round with restrictions which are intended only to render its provisions nugatory. We have had just about enough of this sort of thing.

If honorable members do not intend that we shall secure a workable measure, let them accept the responsibility of piloting an Arbitration Bill through this House. Undoubtedly, a measure of that character must be passed. No Ministry which assumes office can live without undertaking that task. I shall vote against every proposal which is designed to whittle away the good that is intended to be bestowed by this Bill. I can understand the attitude of the honorable member for Lang, who is opposed to the measure, lock, stock, and barrel.

Mr Johnson - Nothing of the kind.

Mr POYNTON - The honorable member told us that upon the floor of this chamber.

Mr Johnson - I object to that statement, Mr. Chairman. I said nothing of the kind

Mr POYNTON - The honorable member voted to displace the Deakin Ministry avowedly for the purpose of killing this Bill.

Mr Johnson - Again, I deny that statement.

Mr POYNTON - His position is a perfectly consistent one. But I ask, " What about the attitude of those who profess to be in sympathy with the proposals of the late Government?" I could name a number of honorable members who have never yet voted with the Ministry upon this Bill.

The CHAIRMAN - I ' would remind the honorable member that the question before the Chair is the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.

Mr POYNTON - I shall1 vote against every proposal which is designed to rob this Bill of its usefulness. We must secure a workable measure, and not one the good effect of which will be stultified by amendment. If the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella were carried, who would be the judge of what action partook of a political character? I remember being asked upon the eve of an election whether I objected to answering a question which had no political bearing, because under the law of the State the mouths of candidates were closed from the clay of nomination until the closing of the poll. I replied to my inquirer, " Personally I. have no objection; but are you quite sure that your 'question has no political bearing?" Upon being reassured upon this point, I consented to answer the inquiry. I was then asked, " To what church do you belong?" to which I replied, " I trust that I belong to the Church of God." My interrogator was thus left in total ignorance as to my religious creed. Similarly, I believe that it will be very difficult to determine what constitutes a political act. The amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is certaintly preferable to that of the honorable and learned member for Angas, because the proposal of the latter would practically wipe out every existing union. For instance, if a member of one of these organizations were to speak at a political meeting a cry would at once be raised, " Oh, this is a political organization." Rather than that such a provision should be inserted in the Bill, I am prepared to sacrifice it, and to allow those who are responsible for its mutilation to undertake the task of piloting a measure dealing with arbitration through this House.

Mr Johnson - I desire to say a few words by way of personal explanation. In the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Grey stated that upon several occasions I had declared that I was opposed to this Bill, " lock, stock, and barrel." So far from having made that statement, I have frequently said that, whilst I had no particular faith in the efficacy of this measure as a means of improving the industrial condition of the workers generally, I was perfectly prepared to give it a fair trial. I affirmed that I was not opposed to the Bill itself, but to the pernicious clauses which it contained, the effect of which would be detrimental to the interests of the whole community.

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