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Tuesday, 5 July 1904


Mr McCAY (Corinella) - If we resolve the speech just made by the Prime Minister into its simple elements, it consists of two threats; first, the threat that if either the amendment of the honorable and learned member. for Angas, or that proposed by myself, be carried, the Bill' will be dropped; and, secondly, the threat that even if that step be not taken, and the Bill be passed embodying the amendments, or either of them, the great unions of Australia will deliberately stand aloof from registration under the Bill. Further than that, the Prime Minister says that, so far as he is concerned, he would advise the unions to refrain from registration.


Mr Watson - Hear, hear.


Mr McCAY - Such a statement coming from the mouth of the leader of the Government and the leader of the party which has for years professed to abhor strikes and industrial warfare, and to desire some means of settling disputes by the process of reason, instead of by resorting to force, must cause the most intense surprise, not only to honorable members, but to the people of the Commonwealth, whom we represent. It was a strange statement to come from a leading representative of the great unions which profess to desire peace.


Mr Watson - Not peace at any price.


Mr McCAY - I shall come to that. The Prime Minister has suggested that some honorable members on this side of the House are animated by a covert hostility to the measure.


Mr Mauger - There is no doubt about it; they confess it themselves.


Mr McCAY - The Prime Minister stated also that he considered that he had shown a reasonable frame of mind towards the amendments proposed. I make a similar claim. In every speech I have made upon the Bill, and in every vote that I have given in connexion with amendments, I have sought to arrive at the minimum of modification or limitation that seemed to be necessary in the interests of the community. I have voted with the present Government-


Mr Higgins - Has the honorable and learned member done so?


Mr McCAY - The Attorney-General is here so seldom that he does not know how any one votes. I have voted with the Government as often as against them, upon matters of as grave importance as that now before us. I voted against them on the question of bringing States public servants within the scope of the measure, because upon that point I took up a definite attitude from the beginning. In connexion with the matter now before us, I announced previously that I disagreed with the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Angas, because it seemed to me to hold out a declaration to the existing unions that the Bill would come into operation without paying any regard to them.


Mr Poynton - Does the honorable and learned member know that his amendment would break up every union?


Mr McCAY - My amendment would do nothing of the kind. We were told by the honorable member for Darling that, practically all the great unions in New South Wales would not be affected, because their rules contain no reference to politics. All that my amendment proposes to do is to divorce the. corporate political from the corporate in dustrial objects that the unions under this Bill are supposed to have. J have no other object in view, and I venture to say that my amendment would achieve no other purpose.


Mr Poynton - What is the meaning of the last few words of the amendment ?


Mr McCAY - They mean exactly what they say - that the rules of a union shall not require the members. to do anything of a political character.


Mr Spence - How could any one tell what was of a political character?


Mr McCAY - That might very well be left to the Court. There are some matters that will have to be left to the Court.


Mr Spence - The unions could not register under the ' amendment of. the honorable and learned member.


Mr McCAY - I beg the honorable member's pardon. Any of the existing unions could register. My amendment recognises the existing unions, and all of them could register if they chose. They would not be compelled to do so.


Mr Hughes - Would there not be a - great danger in allowing a union with political objects to register under the Bill?


Mr McCAY - I have said all along that we should, as far as possible, recognise the existing unions which it was contemplated should be brought under the Bill. It was for that reason that I thought of my amendment, because under the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Angas existing unions would not be recognised in any way. Under my amendment any union could be registered. But, having registered, and having thereby declared itself an industrial union under an industrial measure, and having achieved its political purposes of the past - if the union were of a political character - it should become a purely industrial union in effecf, as it would be ostensibly, for the purposes of the Bill. It must in fairness be clearly understood that organizations under the Bill . are formed for industrial purposes only." They are not to have other purposes to which they may devote their funds, including, perhaps, even the money derived from penalties paid by the other side for breaches of the awards of the Court. We must require these organizations to show to the industrial world of Australia that they are what they profess to be, namely, industrial unions.


Mr Poynton - Have not the trades unions worked very well as organizations under the Arbitration Act of New Zealand?


Mr McCAY - I venture to say that the trouble that has arisen occasionally in New Zealand may be traceable in no small measure to the intermingling of industrial and political matters in some of the unions.


Mr Poynton - I challenge the honorable and learned member to quote one case of the kind.


Mr McCAY - I cannot within the limits of such a short speech as this enter into matters of detail.


Mr Spence - The honorable and learned member cannot quote one case.


Mr McCAY - 1 desire to refer to one matter mentioned by the honorable member for Darling. He stated that, at the time of the great strike some years ago, the employes were urged to use constitutional means, to attain their objects. In other words, they were advised to endeavour to effect them by parliamentary action, as being more peaceful and less likely 10 interfere with the well-being of the community, rather than by resorting to strikes. He stated that the unions then entered upon the second stage of their development. From being' organizations which merely endeavoured to effect by force what they believed to be right, they sought to secure their aims by adopting political means.


Mr Fisher - By law.


Mr McCAY - That is exactly the point Now, when the unions have, by their political efforts secured an enactment for- the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, the reason for their existence as political bodies will cease. Just as the unions entered upon the political phase of their existence because of the necessity of insuring the peaceful settlement of disputes, so, having accomplished their political ends, they should cease to be political organizations.


Mr Spence - Surely we are not to stop at one reform.


Mr McCAY - For the purposes of this measure they should cease to be political organizations. The Bill offers everything that any employer or employe could ask for.


Mr Fisher - Is no further progress to be made ?


Mr McCAY - The honorable member suggests that further progress can be made by means of political organizations. I quite agree with him; but such progress should not be achieved by means of industrial .organizations under this Bill. The remark of the Minister indicates the conscious or unconscious confusion which exists in the minds of honorable members opposite be tween the proper and the improper objects of organizations registered under the Bill.


Mr Carpenter - The honorable and learned member has not yet drawn the line between " industrial " and " political " objects.


Mr McCAY - I cannot possibly give general definitions.


Mr Spence - That is the trouble.


Mr McCAY - If a particular set of circumstances were placed before me, I could give a fairly accurate decision as to whether or not the political element was embraced. That question would be left to the Arbitration Court. We are not endeavouring under any amendment to determine beforehand whether any particular set of circumstances is political or industrial ; we are merely laying down the broad principle that unions, either of employers 'or employes, shall say that, so far as the Bill is concerned, they have now completed their political purposes, and entered upon the achievement of their industrial ends. That is why I have proposed the amendment. I have moved only what seems to be the minimum necessary in this connexion.


Mr Carpenter - The honorable and learned member proposes too much.


Mr McCAY - Even the Prime Minister is prepared to go some distance along the road, so that the difference between him and me is now not a question of principle, but a question of degree. I venture to say that my amendment draws the line at the natural place, the place at which a priori reasoning would draw it.


Mr Hughes - The place for the opponents of the measure. '


Mr McCAY - That is a taunt which is losing its force because of the frequency of its repetition.


Mr Mauger - It is not losing its force.


Mr McCAY - That depends to a large extent on the point of view. If the Government say that they will abandon the Bill if my amendment be carried, they are taking up an attitude which shows that they are not so earnest in the cause of industrial peace and arbitration as in the cause of forwarding the other objects of unionism, which, however laudable, are not laudable in connexion with the Bill. Further than that, if the unions will not come under the Bill if this condition be imposed, they are taking up an attitude which, though they may believe it to be for their own interests, is not one which we are called upon to indorse. We have been told over and over again that nine-tenths of the unions have nothing in their rules which the amendment would reach.


Mr Spence - That shows that it is not needed.


Mr McCAY - No; it shows that it is right ; that the unions themselves have, without legislative instruction, recognised the propriety of that course of action.


Mr Hughes - Ninety-nine out of every 100 non-unionists would have no objection to the clause standing as it is ; but while the honorable and learned member objects to coerce the one-hundredth man, he would coerce every tenth unionist.


Mr McCAY - That is an assertion incapable of either proof or disproof.


Mr Hughes - It is like the statements of the honorable and learned member.


Mr McCAY - I have made no assertion of fact of that kind, nor any approaching in definiteness such an assertion. Reference has been made to the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, to make the non-political test apply only when unions ask for a preference. If it be laudable, as the Minister of Trade and Customs said, for unions to endeavour, by political means, . to achieve further objects, and to secure further progressive legislation, why should a limitation be placed upon them even then? The Prime Minister says frankly that he would prefer to leave them unlimited, so far as legislation is concerned. I do not agree with him as to the respective duties of Parliament and the Court. If Parliament can see any clear line of delimitation, any clear guiding principles which, in its opinion, should be followed by the Court, it is its dutv to state them, even though we may believe that the Court will follow 'them if they are not laid down. It is our duty to tell the Court what we think should be done. If we pass the preference clause in the Bill, it will mean . that we intend that preference shall be given on some occasions, at any rate. The Court will say that that clause was passed for the purpose of being acted upon in suitable cases. We are saying to the Court, " Give preference in suitable cases." But we should say further, " There are certain cases which we think are not suitable. We leave you free outside those limits, to give preference when you choose." The tendency in New Zealand, at, any rate - I cannot speak so definitely in regard to New South Wales - has been to grant 'preference rather than" not to' grant it.


Mr Mauger - That has been the tendency in New- South Wales rather than in New Zealand.


Mr McCAY - In New Zealand in nine months forty-eight preferences were given in sixty awards or agreements, that is, preference was given in 80 per cent, of the total number of cases.


Mr Hughes - Has it produced any evil effect ?


Mr McCAY - I have not said so; that is not the issue. The issue is whether we should declare by our legislation that in our opinion the divorcing of politics and industrial matters should begin with the entry of the unions under the Bill. The proposal to apply it only when a union asks for preference is, it seems to me, an admission of the principle, and an endeavour to compromise which, if I may venture to say so, has the- vices of either end of the argument and the virtues of neither.


Mr Isaacs - The amendment of the honorable and learned member does not say that there shall be a divorcing of the political and industrial interests on registering under the Bill.


Mr McCAY - It says practically that. I have not quoted its exact words, because every honorable member has a copy of it. It provides that any existing union may register ; but if there are certain things in its rules it must expunge them before moving the Court in connexion with an industrial dispute.


Mr Carpenter - The honorable and learned member goes further than that. He speaks of "binding decisions."


Mr McCAY - That is to meet the case where the rules say . that a decision of the majority at a special or general meeting shall bind the union. There may be no reference to politics in the rules of a union, but at a special or general meeting all sorts of resolutions concerning politics, and binding the union, may be passed. The amendment endeavours to cover every method in which a union may give expression to its will. Once it is conceded that this limitation shall be put in anywhere, the principle is conceded, and the question is only as to how far it shall be applied. The Government, by its threats on its own behalf, and apparently on behalf of the unions, who are, doubtless, deeply interested in the measure, has practically endeavoured to do by force, or by the fear of force, what it ' thinks it may not be able to achieve by argument. It says, "We will go far along the road, but ifyou wish to go any further you must look out for all sorts of unfortunate occurrences." I still find it difficult to believe that, once the principle is admitted, its application to the extent which I ask, as compared with the extent to which the Government are willing to apply it, would produce upon the unions such results as have been mentioned, especially as ninetenths of them would not, we are told, be affected by it. Under these circumstances, in spite of all that has been said by the Prime Minister, it seems to be my duty-, feeling as I do that what I have proposed is the least that should be agreed to in order to place proper limitations upon the provision in the Bill, to follow the rule I have hitherto followed, and while endeavouring to alter the Bill as little as possible, and to leave the operation of its principles as free as possible, to adhere to the position which I have already taken up.







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