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Wednesday, 6 July 1904

Mr WILSON (Corangamite) - I do not expect, at this stage, to be able to add anything very new or interesting to the discussion. I should like, however, 'to correct a few errors which have arisen during the debate, and to endeavour to give a little information which up to the present has not been forthcoming. The honorable member for Herbert, last night, expressed the opinion that the discussion had been unduly prolonged. But if honorable members will look at the daily newspapers) they will see that, as .the discussion has proceeded, especially in the committee stage, the public have been considerably enlightened, and opinion has changed in many respects. One of the leading newspapers of Melbourne was heart and soul for the whole of the measure, from title to schedule, when it was first submitted ; but in the course of the debate that newspaper has very wisely come to the conclusion that a certain amount of modification of the provisions is necessary. The Bill, as first introduced, was prepared by the right honorable member for Adelaide, whose absence we deeply regret ; and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has pointed out, from time to time, that his Government were not altogether responsible for the drafting. When the Bill got to a certain stage, and the late Government saw fit to hand, over the Treasury benches to the present Government, a great many members on this side of the House complained that the Bill, as then placed before us, contained a considerable number of amendments, and that no opportunity had been afforded to us to see those amendments side by side with the clauses, so that the purport of the measure might be understood.

Mr Poynton - Are not the clauses which are causing the trouble in the same form as that in which they appeared when the present Government came into office?

Mr WILSON - I shall leave that very important question to some other honorable member to answer. It is too deep for me. Perhaps the honorable member for Wentworth will deal with it. The object of the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella is to prevent the application of the funds of trades unions to political purposes, and to prevent the members of trades unions being compelled to do anything of a political character. I admit that there is some difficulty in discovering where we are with respect to the amendments, seeing that the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has proposed an amendment on that submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who intends to propose another on top of it. The amendment to which I desire to speak, and which I intend to support, is the original amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. During the debate, the honorable member for Grey has made several references to the British Medical Association. The honorable member is one of the most persistent interjectors in the Chamber. We continually hear his raven's croak, but never from the front, where we' might deal with the honorable member. Personally, I think all interjections are properly ruled to be disorderly; but one thing which one does like is that an interjector should sit opposite to him, so that he might be fairly dealt with if he has anything to say worth replying to. The honorable member for Grey has on more than one occasion, by way of a sneer, referred to the union or association which exists in the honorable profession to which I have the honour to belong. I refer to the British Medical Association, which is supposed by the honorable member to be a union of doctors for their own purposes.

Mr Chanter - There is no supposition about it ; it is.

Mr Batchelor - And they know how to apply the boycott.

Mr WILSON - The honorable member for Riverina tells us that it is a union of doctors for their own purposes, and I must presume that the honorable member is a greater authority on the Medical Association than am I.

Mr Chanter - I know that they have boycotted doctors in Sydney.

Mr WILSON - The honorable member is doubtless possessed of more information on the subject than am I, but I should like to inform the Committee of the real objects and the raison d'etre of the British Medical Association. For the information of honorable members generally, I may say that the medical profession is protected by certain laws in almost every civilized country in the world, and for a very definite purpose The object is absolutely and entirely for the benefit of the public. It is that only honorable and qualified men shall be registered and permitted to practice.

Mr Hughes - They are .all honorable men.

Mr WILSON - I might say as a compliment to my honorable and learned friend, the Minister of External Affairs, that the same provisions apply absolutely to the honorable profession to which he has the honour to belong. The object of the laws protecting the medical and legal professions is to protect the public, and they are passed for no other purpose.

Mr Hughes - That is the very object of this Bill.

Mr WILSON - The honorable and learned member for Wannon is well able to speak for the association which looks after the interests of the legal profession. I believe that the sole object of that association is to protect the public, by seeing that only honorable men are allowed within the ranks of the profession. With regard to the British Medical Association, any man who is an honorable man, and a legally qualified medical practitioner, may join its ranks.

Mr Batchelor - If he is not boycotted.

Mr WILSON - He may join the ranks of the British Medical Association if he is an honorable man, and if he behaves himself in such a manner - that is to say, in such an honorable manner, for it is all a question of honour---

Mr Batchelor - Who is the judge of such a matter?

Mr WILSON - In England, where the parent branch of the association exists, the judge is the Medical Council, which is composed of doctors, some of whom are nominated by the Government, and others elected by the profession. What they look to is to prevent any man being a member of the British Medical Association who is guilty of unprofessional practice. That is variously defined. One of the first matters to which exception is taken is advertising. Advertising is not allowed amongst members of the medical profession in England, whether they be members of the British Medical Association or not.

Mr Hughes - There are various ways by which a man mav advertise himself.

Mr WILSON - In the case of the medical profession it is not considered right for a man to advertise in the newspapers. Certain honorable members may endeavour to advertise themselves by speaking to the country press in this Chamber. That practice is followed by some honorable members, and not by others. At the same time, every honorable member has a right to say anything which lie thinks will add to the information of members generally. Although some honorable members may sit on the Treasury Bench, and form- an Executive Council of Parliament, it must not be forgotten- that we live in times of democracy, and all are equal who are sent here by the free-born electors of Australia. The British Medical Association in these States comprises but a few of the members of the medical profession. There are other associations existing in such large centres as Melbourne and Sydney, which members of the profession are free to join ; but every member of the profession joining any of these associations must behave himself in an honorable manner, or he may be dealt with as men are dealt with by trades unions, and may be put outside of the association.

Mr Hughes - Under this Bill a man must be given three months' notice before he can be dismissed from a union.

Mr WILSON - The point is, that although the British Medical Association may be termed, as the honorable member for Dalley termed it, a labour union-

Mr McCay - Is there anything political in its rules ?

Mr Batchelor - They boycott members for political action.

Mr WILSON - There is nothing political in its rules, and I should further like to point out that it is a voluntary association. There is no compulsion upon any man to join the British Medical Association, the Victorian or New South Wales Medical Societies, or the Clinical Society of Brisbane, or any other of these associations. A member of the profession may join them, or not, as he pleases.

Mr Batchelor - And if he slays out he starves.

Mr WILSON - If he stays out, he does not starve.

Mr Batchelor - If he stays out, he is boycotted, and the members of the associations refuse to consult with him.

Mr WILSON - I can point to members of the medical profession residing in Collins -street to-day, who are making large incomes, and who are outside of the British Medical Association. There is no compulsion in the matter, and a medical 'man may please himself whether he consults with such men or not. There is no law on that subject. The only persons from whom legally qualified medical practitioners hold themselves aloof, are quacks, or men who have been guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.

Mr Batchelor - Take the case of Dr. Ramsay Smith, and Dr. Napier, in Adelaide.

Mr WILSON - That is a different matter altogether. The difficulty which occurred amongst the medical profession in Adelaide, as the honorable gentleman must know, had nothing whatever to do with the British Medical Association.

Mr Batchelor - It was a purely political matter.

Mr WILSON - It was the result of a quarrel between the medical men, who were running the Adelaide hospital, and the South Australian Government, and had nothing whatever to do with the British Medical Association.

Mr Batchelor - It was not for the benefit of the public.

Mr WILSON - The Government interference, in the first instance, was not for the benefit of the public.

Mr Batchelor - That is another question.

Mr WILSON - It is a question into which we need not enter now, because it has nothing to do with this Bill.-

Mr Batchelor - The honorable member must not forget that the members of the union struck and left the hospital.

Mr Lonsdale - And the patients all recovered.

Mr WILSON - That may, or may not be. I shall leave the honorable member for New England and the Minister of Home Affairs to settle that matter between themselves. We have had a great many taunts levelled at the British Medical Association.

Mr Hughes - The honorable member is wrong; there was no taunt, but a mere statement made.

Mr WILSON - The honorable member for Grey referred to the association several times, and I think it proper that the Committee, and the country generally, should understand the position.

Mr Poynton - I have information that even in Melbourne to-day some of the doctors are not on speaking terms with others, because they have taken Australian Natives' Association work at. a lower rate than some think proper.

Mr WILSON - That has nothing to do with the . British Medical Association.

Mr Poynton - They are considered non-unionists.

Mr WILSON - I admit that one of the matters dealt with by the Council of the British Medical Association, in the interests of the medical profession, is that to which the honorable member for Grey has referred. It is frequently brought up, just as the question of wages is frequently dealt with by members of trades unions. No one can object to that. I have never, as an employer, objected to trades unions discussing the question of wages. In the medical profession, a great many men, unfortunately for themselves, have to earn their livelihood by taking large lodge practices. The question is one which has been discussed repeatedly in the public press, and it is one of very great importance to the medical profession. The great bulk of the lodge practice comes from working men.

Mr Bamford - Does the honorable member desire to come under the Bill ?

Mr Batchelor - If the doctors will only give up politics, we will take them under the Bill.

Mr WILSON - Dealing with the amendment, I am pointing out that over and over again during the course of the debate, the British Medical Association has been referred to as a union, and I have been endeavouring to inform honorable members as . to the way in which that union conducts its business. I have said that it ls a voluntary union, that no man is forced into it, and no man suffers any disability by remaining outside of it: We do not wish to be brought under this Act, nor do we desire to compel by law every medical man to join our union. The association has over and over again had to fight against the grinding down process iri respect to the fees offered to medical men for taking lodge practice. A" common and indeed the usual rate for attendance upon a family in a city like Melbourne is 12s: 6d. per annum.

Mr Poynton - That is sweating.

Mr WILSON - I agree with the honorable member, and I am glad that honorable members opposite are in favour of abolishing such sweating. I know from the honorable member that in Adelaide better conditions hold.

Mr Hughes - What is the union or professional rate?

Mr WILSON - There is no rate fixed. That shows how unlike a trades union the association is.

Mr Batchelor - Is' there not a minimum rate?


Mr Batchelor - Then what is the honorable member growling about?

Mr WILSON - The grievance is one which should be -remedied. I think honorable members will admit that. However, I do not wish to say more now in regard to the matter. The honorable member for Moira referred to the Australian Workers' Union, and attention has also been drawn to the Machine Shearers' and Shed Employes' Union. Now, in 1902, the Australian Workers' Union, whose constitution contained certain rules relating to politics which have since been struck out by order of the Court, numbered 20,891 members. In 1903 it had 13,141 members, and in 1904, 11,538 members; so that its numbers have been steadily decreasing during the past three years. Another union, which has been unfairly spoken of by honorable members as bogus-

Mr Culpin - The . honorable member's own leader, the right honorable member for East Sydney, called it a vile conspiracy.

Mr McCay - Where?

Mr Culpin - In this Chamber.

Mr WILSON - I will deal with that later on.

Mr.Culpin. - It was a bogus union. What is the use of talking of it in any other way?

Mr WILSON - I will come to that directly. I have heard honorable members opposite refer to it as a bogus union, but, although in . 1903 its members numbered only 523, they had increased in 1903 to 1,818, and in 1904 to 2,737. Those facts form a strong recommendation of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, because they show that unions progress by leaps and bounds when they, are non-political in character.

Mr Culpin - It was the money of the employers that did it.

Mr WILSON - Since the honorable member is a follower of the right honorable member for East Sydney on this particular point, I am surprised that he does not follow him on other points, and I hope that before he leaves this Parliament he may be reckoned among the right honorable gentleman's followers. The right honorable member gave some offence to the union in question by terming it bogus, but I' think that the following letter from its general secretary, Mr. John Leahy, addressed from Queen's Chambers, Queen's Place, Sydney, on the 1st July, will clear up the matter -

I wish to give unqualified denial to a statement made by Mr. G. H. Reid in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, June 29. Mr. Reid on that occasion stated that the Machine Shearers and Shed Employes' Union was a conspiracy between pastoralists and workers to create a bogus union. I challenge Mr. Reid to make good his assertion, or even prove that any pastoralist had any hand whatsoever in the formation of this union.

Mr Tudor - Why did they not show their books?

Mr WILSON - If the honorable mem- ber will wait a ' few minutes I will refer to some books which it will be a good thing for the Committee to know about. The honorable member for Kennedy told us the other day that he has in his possession a balance-sheet of this supposed bogus union, in which it is shown that they paid the sum of£200 to a recalcitrant witness in order to induce him to give evidence. That was a serious statement to make in this chamber, as I interjected at the time. If the honorable member has that balancesheet in his possession, why does he not produce it, so that a thorough investigation may be made into his charge? I believe myself that the union is a genuine one, and supplies a long-felt want. Mr. Leahy continues -

I further challenge Mr. Reid to prove that this union is not a bonâ fide industrial organization of shearers and shed-workers. I say that it is the 'only bonâ fide industrial organization of shearers and shed-workers in the Commonwealth.

He is not afraid to challenge even the great Australian Workers' Union.

Mr Spence - He attacked the honorable member's leader.

Mr WILSON - I ask honorable members opposite, who say that the union is. a bogus one, to produce evidence in proof of that statement.

Mr Bamford - The honorable gentleman's own leader has made it.

Mr WILSON - He said that he believed it to be bogus, but he had no proof of the fact ; neither have honorable gentlemen opposite any proof.

Mr Kelly - The real question is, did the Australian Workers' Union behave properly when before the New South Wales Arbitration Court?

Mr WILSON - That is so. If I had been brought up as a bullock-driver, I might be able to assist honorable' members to find language strong enough to express their sentiments in regard to non-unionists. No more disgraceful language has been heard in any Parliament than that used by them to describe those who do not belong to unions. The honorable member for Grey grew almost livid with rage when he spoke of them, and said that he could not find language within the Standing Orders which would allow him to describe them.

Mr Poynton - Nothing of the kind. I said that the Standing Orders would not permit me to describe the average nonunionist as I should like to describe him.

Mr WILSON - The honorable member for Kennedy and others have repeatedly applied such names as "scabs," "blacklegs," "parasites," "outcasts," and "men of a criminal type " to non-unionists.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - He did not apply those terms to all non-unionists, because there are thousands of non-unionists in his electorate.

Mr WILSON - He applied them in the first instance to all non-unionists.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - He did not mean them to be so applied.

Mr WILSON - The honorable member cannot show that he meant anything but what he said. The right honorable member for East Sydney showed clearly that the honorable member had made use of those words to describe non-unionists generally. When there is a strike, and free labourers come in to take the place of unionists, they are obviously men who have previously been engaged in the occupation in which they seek employment. It would be absolutely impossible for any man unacquainted with shearing to go into a shed and shear a stud ram offhand. In the first place, if the man were a novice he would, instead of having the ram on the floor ready for shearing, probably find himself on the floor, or knocked out of the shed. Therefore, these men must have had previous experience, and yet they have been described as "scabs," "blacklegs," "parasites," "outcasts," and men of "a criminal type" - descriptions, which are disgraceful to the men who have applied them. These men are outside the unions, and why? I " know of many men living in the country who are outside the pale of the Australian Workers' Union to-day,, because when they were members of the union in times gone by, the union slipped them up and left them stranded. Instead of their being able to earn a good cheque on the shearing board, they were left stranded, and their wives and families were reduced to the verge of starvation. Now they will have nothing to do. with the union, and when questioned with regard to it, say that it exists for the benefit only of its secretary, its legal advisers, and the member or members of Parliament who happen to represent the particular political ideas of its members. The Prime Minister called this measure a permissive Bill. Some years ago a Bill was introduced into the House of Commons to deal with the liquor traffic, and that was called a permissive Bill. It was generally known as " A Bill to permit me to prevent you from having a glass of grog." According to the Prime Minister the measure now before u.s is a permissive Bill, and the object of bringing forward this particular clause is to force all men into particular- unions, the members of which are to have a preference, whilst all those outside the union are to be shut out from employment until the supply of union labour has been exhausted. In other words, this is a permissive Bill to permit me - a trades unionist - to prevent you - a. man outside the pale of the unions - from obtaining employment. The wives and children of such men are to be allowed to starve. They may be consigned to industrial perdition, so long as the unionists obtain the preference of employment. I know of many men outside the labour organizations who would rather cut off their right hands than subscribe to the platform put forward by the Labour Party. The Prime Minister' last night stated that the Trades Hall Council was not a political organization. He represented that political matters were dealt with by the Political Labour Council. An honorable member interjected that the difference between the two bodies was that between tweedledum and 'tweedledee. I presume that the way in which they work it is as follows: - A meeting of the Trades Hall Council is held, and when the business is gone through the meeting is closed, and after an interval for a " smoke-ho " a meeting of the Political Labour Council is held. Of course, this is imaginary, but the relationship which exists between the Trades Hall Council and the Political Labour Council in Melbourne suggests the idea. These two bodies have combined together to employ a propagandist. Perhaps that is the most polite way of speaking of the gentleman who has been engaged to preach Socialism throughout the State of Victoria. This gentleman is supposed to be under the control of the Trades Hall and the Political Labour Councils.

Mr Bamford - He is an agitator.

Mr WILSON - The honorable member for Herbert has the temerity to interject that Mr. Tom Mann is an agitator.

Mr Bamford - That term is quite good enough ; he is quite satisfied with it.

Mr WILSON - He is being employed to advocate Socialism. I think it is fair in dealing with the unions', particularly in their political aspect, to inquire into everything relating to them - their finances, their constitution, and their relationship with the man whom they employ to preach their gospel throughout Victoria. I have a copy of a circular issued -by the " Tom Mann control committee " - appointed by the Trades Hall and Political Labour Councils. It is dated from Melbourne, Carlton, 1st February, 1904; the telephone number is given as 961, and Stephen Barker appears as the honorary secretary.

Mr Batchelor - Those are most interesting details.

Mr WILSON - I desire to read them, because they are all pertinent. I intend to show the intimate connexion of the Trades Hall Council with politics. Upon this committee the Trades Hall is represented by Mr. R. H. Solly, who is one of the representatives of the railway servants in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, the treasurer is the honorable member for Yarra, and the third representative of the Trades. Hall Council is Mr. M. Hannah, also a representative of the railway servants in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria. The Political Labour Council is represented by Mr. H. Beard, M.L.A. for Jika Jika, by Mr. J. Mathews, who opposed the honorable member for Melbourne Ports at the last Federal election, and by Mr. J. Phillips. This circular contains some very interesting information with reference to the propaganda work of Mr. Tom Mann. It reads as follows : -

The committee have much pleasure in announcing that Tom Mann has resumed the work of organizer at the earnest request of the council and committee in the interest of the movement,

I should like to direct attention to these words - putting aside his own strong personal desire to go upon the land. The committee need hardly remind unions and branches of the effective work accomplished by Tom Mann, which has been acknowledged on all hands, even by our enemies.

Mr Watkins - I suppose that he has done as good work as has Mr. Walpole ?

Mr WILSON - Possibly so, I am not discussing that point.

Mr Batchelor - The honorable member seems to be verv much afraid of him.

Mr WILSON - Fearfully so. The circular proceeds -

The average cost of organizing has been £40 per month. To sustain this work funds are urgently needed. Unions are urged to complete their payments, and where possible to increase the amount promised.

This shows definitely that the unions, to the funds of which it is proposed that men shall be forced to contribute, are being asked to subscribe towards the work which has been entered upon by the Tom Mann control committee.

Mr Watkins - Have they not the same right as has the Employers' Union to engage in propaganda work?

Mr WILSON - Yes; they have a perfect right to do so; but we are discussing the question whether men should be forced by a legal enactment into joining the unions whether they like it or not - whether it shall be a case of - "Gape, sinner, gape and swallow;

You lead, I follow."

The circular concludes in the following, words -

Now that the work has been resumed by Tom Mann, the committee confidently appeal to all to help them to make the work of the organizer effective by supplying them with the means whereby they can sustain and equip him for the arduous work undertaken for the extension of the movement, by which all are benefited. - Fraternally yours, on behalf of the committee, Stephen Barker, Sec. T.H.C. and T.M.C.

This is a standing proof of the fact that the funds of the unions are applied to political purposes.

Mr Batchelor - That is, the funds of the political labour unions?

Mr Tudor - The funds are applied to industrial purposes.

Mr WILSON - No; these funds are being subscribed to the Tom Mann control committee by the trades unions. The committee consists of representatives of the Trades Hall and Political Labour Councils. The Trades Hall Council is not supposed to have any connexion with politics; but does any honorable member believe that the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne - I know nothing about the Sydney Council - is anything but a political organization, which exists for political purposes. The unions which go to make up the Trades Hall use the sixpences and shillings subscribed by their members for political purposes. I have not the slightest objection to voluntary unionism.

Mr Watkins - I suppose that the honorable member believes in the principle of compelling unions to pay the sixpences subscribed weekly by their members to doctors ?

Mr WILSON - Unfortunately for the doctor, either the subscriptions are not paid at the end of each week or they never reach him.

Mr Watkins - Or else the natient dies.

Mr WILSON - It is very often a godsend to the doctor that the patient does die, because the. unions provide for a funeral allowance of £20, and the medical man in attendance gets paid out of that. But I am digressing. I claim that this is a very important matter. We have here positive proof that the funds of trades unions are used for political purposes. If the Government and their supporters have their way, non-unionists will be compelled 'to join these organizations, and to subscribe to their funds in order to gain a preference as regards employment, or face the alternative of starvation. I wish now to direct attention to another matter which has reference to the Trades Hall and the unions connected therewith. I refer to the Eight Hours Committee, which annually promotes the Eight Hours Demonstration ostensibly for charitable purposes. I propose to deal with the balancesheets issued by the committee for the years1900,1901, and 1902.

The CHAIRMAN - Does the honorable member think that his remarks will come within the scope of the amendment ?

Mr WILSON - I do. I intend to show how the Trades Hall Council, which is constituted of various unions, deals with the funds which are collected.

Mr Reid -I should not discuss the matter at any length, because, after all, the main point at issue relates to the political question.

Mr WILSON - In 1900 the funds collected by this committee totalled over £5,000, and the balance to its credit in the bank, after paying all expenses, was £5. The donations amounted to£638.In that vear the members of the committee de corated themselves with medals, which cost £42 2s. 6d. In 1901, the money collected aggregated , £6,200, and the donations dwindled from £638 to £112, the balance in the bank being £954. That balance, I may remark, has never been publicly accounted for. It is not mentioned in the balance-sheet of the succeeding year. The cost of the medals with which the committee provided themselves in 1901 increased from £42 to £121. In 1902 the amount collected was £6,800, and the donations dropped to £27.

Mr Batchelor - Terrible !

Mr WILSON - It is terrible, and the manner in which these funds have been disbursed requires investigation. In 1902 the balance in the bank, after all expenses had been paid, was . £919. Of that sum, nothing further has been heard. What has become of it ? From information received I believe that a large proportion of it has been absorbed in rent, which is charged by the Trades Hall Council. Consequently that money is being applied to political purposes. At one time it was customary for the committee to allocate a portion of its surplus to the Trades Hall building fund. That practice, however, was stopped by . the Victorian Government. Now the same thing is being done, presumably by mutual arrangement by way of rent. Last year, instead of the charities receiving any of the money collected from the public, £180 was expended for the purchase of gold decorations, which were distributed amongst the members of the committee. One of these decorations can be seen on the Ministerial benches. In contradistinction to this condition of affairs, I should like to point to another association which is not connected with the Trades Hall Council, and which is not in any sense a trades union. The Druids' Association last . year collected £2,352, of which amount £1,017 was handed over to the charities. When I was asked for this information, I received a polite invitation to call and inspect the balancesheet of the association. In the case of the Eight Hours Committee, however, no balancesheet has been presented since 1902, and no information whatever as to the disposition of the moneys collected has been forthcoming.

Mr Poynton - Did the honorable member make inquiries from the proper source?

Mr WILSON - I did. I agree with the statement that the so-called Labour Party is becoming too conservative. The amend- ment submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella is simply in the direction of liberalizing their unions. I trust that the Committee will agree that this Bill can be made satisfactory to the general body of workers throughout Australia by the acceptance of that amendment, coupled with the proposal submitted by the honorable and learned' member for Angas.

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