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Wednesday, 6 July 1904

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) - The Attor- ney-General is well within his right in contending that the place where it is proposed to insert these two amendments might have been bett er chosen. That is a question of form, the determination of which I am sure the Committee will be satisfied to leave to the honorable and learned gentleman. If this amendment be carried, no doubt he will be able to advise the Committee where it should be inserted.

Mr Fisher - Under those circumstances the honorable and learned member will get a good opportunity to put it in himself. He need not be alarmed about that.

Mr DEAKIN - I do not anticipate that result, and certainly do not desire it. In the second place, the Attorney-General employs the old argument thai because those who are opposed either to the whole or a large portion of this measure, are found supporting an amendment of this character, it should be looked upon with suspicion. The declaration that this Bill is chiefly to be used" for party political purposes made by some of his supporters can scarcely be that of the Ministry which is sustained by them. As a matter of fact I presume that, like any mixed body of representatives, we view this question from different angles, and possibly arrive at the same result from a good many stand-points. It is perfectly true - as has been stated - that in this country particularly, politics are very largely industrial matters. It does not follow, however, that unless trades organizations under this Bill are authorized to play a part- in election campaigns their members lose a single political, constitutional, or civil right which they now possess. As a matter of fact", they do not. The proposal under consideration provides that it is only hades unions as such, whose intrusion into the political sphere is to be limited.. The unions in this city, which meet together at the Trades Hall, compose two bodies, one being a labour council and the other a political league. I think that they meet in the same building, that they consist of much the same men, arid appeal to the same constituents.

Mr Tudor - All the unions do not belong to the Political Labour Council.

Mr DEAKIN - But there is no reason why they should not. If there were a law in this State forbidding the unions as such from taking any political action, it would not prevent every member of those unions from walking out of one room into another, and constituting themselves another organization for political purposes. The amendment seeks to lay down that a trades union, whilst acting as such - acting under its own rules - ought not to be a political agent.

Mr Isaacs - How would the fact of men walking from one room into another provide them with funds? Are they to undertake another burden ?

Mr DEAKIN - If, at the present time, members of trades unions contribute to those bodies for political purposes, surely they could send the same contributions to another organization for the same purpose.

Mr Mauger - That would be making a sham of the whole thing.

Mr DEAKIN - I do not wish to reply to sham interjections; but neither of those I have just answered appear to me to have the slightest relevance to the matter under consideration. It may be that, standing at the table in the heat of discussion, I have failed to grasp their real import, but, as far as I do understand them they are irrelevant. I was about to remark that last evening the Prime Minister opened up a more serious question. In one or two of his observations I do not think that he did justice to himself, . and. certainly he failed to do justice to me. I do not propose to repeat the history of this Bill. We all know the troubled circumstances under which it first came into my hands. After having had an opportunity of further considering it, I have expressed my doubts and reservations regarding it. I do not desire to reiterate them. If I had continued in charge of the Bill, sitting upon the other side of the table instead of upon this, I should have been obliged to receive and meet amendments from all quarters. I should have done so to the best of my ability. I should have carried the Bill with as little alteration as possible. I should have accepted amendments which I thought better expressed the objects of- the Bill, and should have resisted any proposal which was aimed at any. of the important purposes it was destined to achieve. I shall do so still. Last evening, the Prime Minister, speaking to me directly, in accents of some bitterness, referred to the manner in which I have dealt with this measure. Consequently, I have looked up the divisions which have taken place upon it since I introduced it. These divisions number . twelve. .Upon eleven occasions I find that I voted for the text of the measure, and on the other I supported an amendment submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, which, in my view, expressed a reasonable interpretation of it. I have not once voted against a single line of the Bill.

Mr Watson - I was referring to another matter, as Hansard will show. I admit that I made a reference to other exMinisters.

Mr DEAKIN - The Prime Minister spoke of me, and even did me the honour of pointing to me. However, I accept his assurance. I have not voted against a single line of this Bill, but I shall not hesitate to do so if necessary. Upon five divisions, however, the Government have voted against the Bill, and they have also laid upon the table four pages of amendments relating to it.

Mr Watson - It was not our Bill previously.

Mr DEAKIN - Precisely. When honorable members opposite quote, as they, do continually - and sometimes certain honorable members on this side refer to it - the high authority of the right honorable member for Adelaide, who framed this Bill, and ask us why we dare by proposing amendments to lay sacrilegious hands on a measure finished by so high an authority, I feel constrained to ask the Prime Minister why he considered it necessary to introduce four pages of amendments in such a perfect work? With these amendments it would become the Minister's Bill. It has already been made a Ministerial measure by the omission of some six or eight of the clauses that it contained when it left the hands of the right honorable member for Adelaide, by the omission of the provision for two permanent members of the Court, to whose appointment he attached great importance, by the proposal that disputes shall be dealt with when they are only likely to extend to another State, and by striking out the provision for the maximum penaltyhe intended. All these are important and vital alterations, and the Government are entitled to make them.

Mr Watson - But they are not alterations in our Bill.

Mr DEAKIN - They are alterations in a Bill that we are told is the masterpiece of a draftsman who understands this subject better than any one else, and yet in the next moment we are invited to modify and amend it wholesale. The two views are inconsistent. I do not say that the Government are not justified in making these amendments, but in adopting that course of action they deprive themselves of the argument they are fond of using. I have not acted unjustly to the Government. There have been eleven divisions on the Bill since they took office, and I have voted with them on seven. They will not be surprised that I did not vote with them on the remaining divisions, when they are reminded of the subjects to which they related. The first of these was on the inclusion of the railway servants ; the next was the amendment to extend the Bill to all States and Commonwealth servants ; and the third was the proposal to include domestic servants, who were excluded by the Bill as brought in by me; all these were amendments of the Bill. That accounts for ten of the eleven divisions. Consequently, I have never voted against the Bill, and have only on one occasion voted against the Government.

Mr Tudor - There have been twelve divisions on the Bill.

Mr DEAKIN - That is so, if we include one that took place before the late Government left office. I cannot complain of their action when in Opposition.

Mr Hutchison - I hope that the honor able and learned member is going to keep vip his record.

Mr DEAKIN - It should not be necessary to refer to the record.

Mr Watson - I do not complain of the honorable and learned member's record.

Mr DEAKIN - I accept that assurance ; but, although the honorable gentleman, in the course of his speech, may have been thinking of some one else, he was looking very hard at me, and pointing to me. That being so, I not unnaturally assumed that his remarks were addressed to myself.

Mr Fisher - The honorable and learned member interjected.

Mr DEAKIN - Quite so. Let me now deal with the proposal before us. So far I have forsaken neither the Bill nor the Government. In entering upon a consideration of arbitration possibilities, I may. certainly, without making any professions, assert emphatically, that I am not anti-unionist. Whether I can claim to be a non-unionist is doubtful. According to the criticism of honorable members opposite, I am a unionist in my profession, but at all events I am not in this connexion or in any other an antiunionist. What is more,' so far as I had any voice in the framing of this measure, it went, and will continue to go, in support of what I believe to be its fundamental principle. The tribunal to be created under the Bill is intended to be based not simply on the ordinary foundation of a Court of Justice, but to be built on and of organizations. That appears on the veryface of the measure. It is plain both from the interpretation clause and other provisions that it is intended that trades unions shall be free to become organizations, to form part of those organizations, 01 to refrain from connexion with them, as they may think best. My hope is that unions will take full advantage of the Bill, and that they will become either organizations or parts of organizations. As the AttorneyGeneral practically admitted to-day. the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member, If or Angas! is in order, if introduced at the point proposed, and is not out of harmony with the rest of the Bill. He proposes that the organizations to be created under this measure shall be new bodies - as new, he put it, as is the Commonwealth Parliament when compared with the States Parliaments from which it sprang - and that those who desire to set the machinery of this Bill in motion to obtain its advantages, shall, whether unionists or nonunionists, form organizations, 01 become members of organizations when they are formed. It is his desire that unions shall remain as they are, created by or working under State laws, pursuing their own purposes in their own way ; but that for the purposes of this measure entirely new. trades organizations - organizations of employers on the one hand and of employes on the other - shall be established. That is a perfectly legitimate proposal, and the Bill would work under it. The suggestion has been made, however, that if the amendment were carried, there would not be sufficient motive to induce employes to form themselves into new organizations, and that, consequently, the Bill might remain to a large extent a dead letter. For my own part, I think the prospects of advantage, and the pressure upon the employes, would bring them into new organizations, with perhaps some little delay. Therefore, having fair regard to the amendment no one can say that it is aimed at the life of the Bill. I have admitted before, however, and am free to admit again, that I listen in this connexion with great consideration to the opinions of men more experienced in trades unionism than I am. When the Prime Minister put it, as the result of his experience, that the unions had a claim for first consideration, because of the sacrifices their members had made in the past, that they possessed a special competency, by reason of their acquaintance with joint industrial action; that they had gathered to themselves many of the most enthusiastic and able employes, and that, lacking them, the organizations under this Bill would lack a great force and a great mass of educated opinion, I felt that he had made out a good case. lt seems to me, therefore, that, although the proposition made by the honorable and learned member for Angas is permissible, it is highly desirable - hav-. ing in view the advantages to be gained by associating trades unions with this measure - not to exclude them, as would be the effect of his amendment, but to afford them every opportunity,, if they think fit, to come in and enjoy the benefits that this measure would confer, bringing with them the 'men trained in industrial matters, who have been gathered in their ranks. In these circumstances, it is reasonable to request the honorable and learned member for Angas to reconsider his position in the light of these facts, and to ask himself whether it is not possible to accomplish the ends at which he aims - or the practical portion of them - without placing unions at the disadvantage of undertaking the formation of entirely new bodies. Speaking generally, but frankly, the whole of this Bill is based upon organizations - organizations of employers on the one side, and of employes on the other - for what honorable members prefer to refer to occasionally as collective bargaining. There is no doubt that the measure will depend largely for the extent of its operation and efficiency upon the character of the organizations on both sides that are established under it.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable and learned member is not overlooking the fact that single employers are recognised to the same extent as is a whole organization of employes.

Mr DEAKIN - When they employ more than one hundred persons they are. That is inevitable. It is not unfair to either side, and although it leads to certain arithmetical puzzles, some of which the honorable and learned member for Indi favoured us with last night, the woes of the man who has ninety, and not 100 employes, and cannot become an " organization," or the woes of employes who are ninety, and not 100, in number, and therefore cannot constitute themselves an "organization," are not material matters- that should affect, our view o'f the general scope and character of the Bill. Such apparent difficulties are inevitable in a measure of this kind, and, indeed, in most measures designed to deal with large bodies of men. .1 was pointing out, when the honorable and learned member interrupted me, that the whole Bill is ..based upon organizations, and that the object of those organizations is industrial. During the greater part of this debate one would have imagined that the industrial portion of the Bill was subordinate. We have heard a great deal as to how the unions are to be affected in one direction or another; but very little as to how they are to be affected industrially. This Bill does not relate to political disputes, much less to political party disputes. The word "matters," which is perhaps *he widest in the legal vocabulary, is employed, but it is to " industrial matters" alone that the Bill relates. It is an industrial Bill, to deal with industrial disputes and industrial matters in order to establish industrial peace. It seeks only to achieve that end. Well might it stop short of seeking to accomplish other objects, in view of the almost inconceivably vast area covered bv it. That area is enormous, not because the Bill will embrace the , whole Continent, but because it will extend to all the ramifications of industry, to all the industrial pursuits of men, constituting when taken together, a mass of material, to be handled judicially, that may well require the stoutest hearts and keenest brains to cope with it. As we have that gigantic task in hand, and are attempting it with great courage, should it not be the last desire of any friend of the measure to hamper it by the addition of more dead weight, by throwing in other problems, or by introducing other considerations ? Especially should they avoid plunging us into a new field of heated strife, when we are already engaged, by the very nature of the case, in putting limits to the most serious strife that can exist in the bosom of a pacific people. If this Bill gives nothing more, and is needed to give us nothing more, than industrial peace, by means of industrial organizations, what more could, or ought to be, asked of it? Benefit funds - sick funds if honorable members choose to speak of them in that way - are established in connexion with some unions, sometimes collected!, as in the case of the Amalgamated Miners' Association, and sometimes paid in advance, as in the Australian Natives' Association.

Mr Watkins - That would not be the case if we accepted the amendment.

Mr DEAKIN - That matter is not touched by the amendment. .

Mr Watkins - The amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Angas would go further than the honorable and learned member thinks.

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