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Wednesday, 6 July 1904

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I desire to remove some of the misapprehension which appears to exist among honorable members opposite with regard to the position of non-unionists. The term " non-unionist " is a misnomer as applied to all the workmen of Australia who are outside the unions. In my constituency there are 22,000 electors and only one registered union, namely, the Waterside Workers' Union, comprising about 150 men. I am a member of that union, and, as I am also one of its trustees, 1 know that it has considerable funds. They did not, however, contribute a shilling towards my election expenses. That fact, I take it, sufficiently disproves the statement, which has been repeatedly made during this debate, that trades unions are political organizations which contribute towards the election expenses of parliamentary labour candidates. I venture to say that any honorable member upon the opposite side of the chamber who dared to visit Queensland, and to apply the term " nonunionist " to any worker there, would require to be very bulky to avoid rough treatment. The term " non-unionist," as it is understood in that State, has a verydifferent meaning from- that which is attached to a " non-member " of a union. For example, there are 2,000 or 3,000 miners employed at Mount Morgan, who are, perhaps, the finest body of workmen engaged in any enterprise in Australia. They do not belong to any organization, but they sympathize with the trades unions all over Australia. If they laboured under any grievances which required redress, they would immediately form themselves into a union. The same remark is applicable to' every other mining centre. In that labour citadel, Claremont, it is impossible to find a man who would permit him self to be called a " non-unionist," although there is no union in existence there. If any honorable members opposite dared to visit Mount Morgan, and to brand men who do not belong to any trades organizations there as " non-unionists," they would either be in the hospital or missing next morning.

Mr Kennedy - Honorable members upon this side of the chamber have said nothing derogatory to men who are not members of trades union.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I maintain that they have. Some- most mendacious assertions have been made concerning the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy. I am positive that there are thousands of men in the electorate of Kennedy who, according to honorable members of the Opposition, are " non-unionists," and who support their present representative in this House. Yet the contention of the other side is that nonunionists are not in sympathy with unionists.

Mr Kelly - Our contention is that they do not join the unions.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Whenever a strike takes place the employer who is particularly interested usually instructs his agents to engage men to take the places of the strikers. As a result, he secures the "scum of the earth." These men are guaranteed a good wage, a good living, and the protection of the police. It is these individuals whom the ' honorable member for Kennedy designates "blacklegs" and " scabs." They seek to deprive the strikers and their dependents of food. I claim that the Government should stake their position upon these amendments. Ever since this Bill has been under discussion some honorable members, whilst posing as friends of the Bill, have been continually attempting to harass the Government. I say that t'hev are traitors to the measure, and I instance the action of the honorable and learned member for Corinella in this connexion. He has endeavoured to emasculate the Bill so as to render it useless to the very men to whom it is intended to apply.

Mr Kennedy - We do not wish it to apply to their organizations as political machines.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - It is not intended to be a political machine. I am sure that the majority of honorable members opposite know nothing whatever of the Workers or the conditions under which they labour.

Mr Kennedy - Some honorable members upon this side of the chamber have worked as hard as any Ministerial sup- porter, and know quite as much about the conditions which obtain.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I admit that there are a few who have had experience, but I was speaking of the majority. We know from the utterances of the right honorable member for East Sydney at Kyneton that he intends to clip the claws of the Socialist tiger and to extract his teeth. I understand that the two hunters are now engaged in spreading their net, with a view to his capture. The right honorable member for East Sydney, I am informed, is to act as the chiropodist, and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat as the dentist. In my judgment, however, the tiger is not so weak as they imagine. I trust that the Government will take up a firm stand upon this 'question, and refuse to allow the Bill to be emasculated in the way that is being attempted.

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