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Wednesday, 10 August 1904

Mr SPENCE (Darling) - I do not know whether the action of the honorable and learned member for Corinella and others is approved of by the two leaders of the Opposition; but, in reference to the complaint that the recommittal of the clause would lead to a waste of time, I would say that the real waste of time is being committed in discussing twice over a question which need be discussed only once. It must be admitted that every honorable member can, in Committee, address himself to the question which is now being debated, and, if the amendment is rejected, as I think it should be, the present discussion will have to be repeated in Committee. It must not be forgotten that the proposed Court will be very different from the ordinary Courts, and that its methods must be more elastic. The President of the Court will be practically the arbitrator in all industrial disputes which can constitutionally be brought before the tribunal over which he presides. What we have therefore to do is to equip him with ample power, and then to trust him to exercise it properly. The constant changes and evolution in all industrial enterprises are such as no Parliament could effectively deal with. Parliament has not the necessary machinery to overtake these changes, nor the material evidence necessary to provide for them. What' is now being proposed is to lay down a hard and fast rule limiting the power of the Judge in regard to a particular set of details. Those who would impose this limitation | do not contend that the President of the

Court will be destitute of common sense, but, on the other hand, profess to believe that he will do justice, as far as possible.

Mr McWilliams - But all Acts of Parliament limit the powers of the Judges.

Mr SPENCE - Arguments based upon the experience gained in ordinary Courts are of little avail in this connexion, because the limitation of the power of the Judge presiding over the Arbitration Court would be contrary to the principle upon which legislation of .this kind must be based. The fullest power must be given to settle all disputes, and to deal with all matters of detail. The Judge may very well be left to decide as to whether preference should be granted to those who are applying for it. The Government have practically adopted the Bill brought down by their predecessors. That was generally admitted to be a welldrafted measure, but it contained no such provision as that introduced at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The Government now make a proposal which is intended to clear up the matter dealt with in the amendment referred to. The principle of their proposal is similar to that of the present proviso. I am surprised that honorable members do not recognise the utter impracticability of the proviso as it stands. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has had no experience of the working of trades organizations, and he may not be able to foresee the effects of his proposal. That is one of the difficulties with which we have had to deal throughout this measure. Honorable members who have had no experience of the working of trades organizations have proposed amendments which many of us have at once recognised as utterly impracticable. There is no dispute as to the principle embodied in the proviso; the Government proposal is intended solely to render it workable, and I see no reason why the motion to recommit the clause should be objected to. I am altogether opposed to the proviso as it stands, and I also regard the proposal which the Government propose to submit to the Committee as unnecessary. I take it that the amendment is being brought forward in deference to the opinion expressed by the Committee, and by way of compromise. I hold, however, that such a provision is unnecessary. This is proved by the experience gained in every Arbitration Court of which we have had experience. No such limitation as that suggested has been placed . upon the States' Courts, which have to deal with a very much larger number of organizations than will come within the purview of the Federal tribunal. The federated organizations may be larger than those whose affairs come within the jurisdiction of the States' Courts, but they will be fewer. No limitation, so far as preference is concerned, is placed upon the power of the Judges in the States' Courts. Honorable members have frequently urged that we should be guided by experience in all these matters, and I confidently refer them to the records of the States' Arbitration Courts for proof that no evil has arisen from vesting those tribunals with full power to give preference to unionists. I defy honorable members to quote a case in which harm has resulted from vesting the Court with untramelled authority.

Mr Mcwilliams - The amendment proposed by the Government would limit the power of the Judge very materially.

Mr SPENCE - The Government have recognised, as all Governments must, the feeling of the Committee, and they are attempting to put into working form a provision which the Committee passed hastily "and without fully understanding it. The proposal was not discussed by the mover or any one else. I should not have allowed such a proposal to pass without debate if I had for one moment supposld that it would be adopted. I thought that it would have been rejected. If it had been discussed, its weakness would have been recognised. Now, the Government desire that we should recommit the Bill, in order that we may insert a workable provision in lieu of the impracticable proviso contained in the Bill. It would be impossible to satisfy the Court that the request for preference was approved by the majority of those who would be affected by the award. The honorable and learned member for Corinella, and other honorable members, have had a great deal to say with regard to the difficulty of interpreting the words " substantially represent," but they have been silent as to the difficulty of deciding as' to the number of persons who would be affected by an award. I contend that the words "affected by" are capable of a very wide interpretation. The meaning of the word " substantial " is clear, whereas it will be difficult to interpret the phrase used in the clause as it now stands. Many of the objections raised by honorable members have been based upon the assumption that the awards of the Court will have a very far-reaching effect - that they will affect not only those who are immediately engaged in a dispute, but the community generally. It is possible, therefore, that the Judge may place a very wide interpretation upon the words " affected' by." It will be necessary for the unionists who are applying for preference to show the Judge that the majority of those affected are in favour of their claim being granted. If, however.. I were asked to present a case for the union, of which I happen to be President, I should not be able to prove that we had the approval of the majority of those affected.

Mr Hutchison - We might believe that we had the approval of a majority, but be unable to prove it.

Mr SPENCE - We might be able to satisfy the Judge that we represented the majority of those engaged in the industry; but how could we prove that we represented the majority ' of those affected ? Shearing work is intermittent in character. The majority of the men work only for about three months of every season ; for the rest of the year they are engaged in other occupations. They do not go out shearing every season, and no complete list of those who follow that calling is available. It would be necessary to take a census and to ask every man whether or not he could be classed as a shearer.

Mr Higgins - How long does a shearer remain a shearer?

Mr SPENCE - No one can say. As has been pointed out, the honorable member for Maranoa is a shearer, although probably he has not followed that occupation for many years. I describe myself as a miner, but I have not followed that calling for many years past. The honorable member for Grey is a shearer.

Mr Hutchison - I am a member of the Shearers' Union,, and I suppose that I should be classified as a shearer.

Mr SPENCE - It would be' utterly impracticable to prove that the applicants for preference represented the majority of those affected by the award, because the majority could only be arrived at after the total of those affected had been ascertained. No one could say- how many wharf labourers, or how many shearers, there were, and the same thing would apply to many other callings.

Mr Higgins - It would be necessary to have a roll, and to hold a revision court.

Mr SPENCE - Exactly. We should require to compile, a list somewhat similar to an electoral roll, and we can understand what trouble would be involved in such a case. It is extraordinary that the honorable and learned member for Corinella should have failed to recognise that his proviso is utterly impracticable. It . may be that he knows what the effect would be, namely, that it would be impossible to comply with the condition he has imposed, and that the Court would thus be prevented fromgiving preference to unionists. The sooner honorable members realize this, and vote straight out against any preference being given to unionists, the better. I should -have no hesitation in telling the Judge that the organization to which I belong represented the majority of those who work at shearing, but I could not say that it represented the majority of those who would be affected by his award. When men go out shearing, they pay their union fees for the season during which, they are engaged at that class of work, but when they do not go out they become unfinancial, and no further record of them is kept. Similarly, miners pay their union fees when they are working, but not when they are unemployed. If . a miner goes away, and engages in some other occupation, he ceases, to be a financial member of his union. If the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and those who support him, wish the Court to be prohibited from giving preference, let them say so. I dislike underhand methods of achieving an object. Let honorable members say straight out what they mean. As I still had a certain degree of faith in. the honorable and learned member for Corinella, I fully expected that he would have accepted the proposal of the Government, and I am surprised that he . should persist in retaining a proviso which would render the Bill entirely inoperative. I think that I can claim to speak with some knowledge of trades unions. I can assure honorable members that a perfect storm of indignation has been aroused by some of the amendments which have already been made in the Bill, and particularly by that which was inserted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Although the unionwith which I am associated has not yet dealt with the matter officially, I know that the feeling which is generally expressed by prominent officers of that and other organizations is opposed to registering under this Bill, and on the ground that. in. its present form it is utterly useless. Honorable members who have supported these amendments must accept the responsibility for their handiwork. Those who honestly desire to obtain a workable measure must attach some weight to the opinions of experts, who can speak from personal knowledge, and who do not treat the Bill in the flippant manner adopted by the honorable member for Wentworth and those who occupy a different station in life. That is a very serious matter to the working man.

Mr Mcwilliams - It will be a serious matter to the working man who will find himself unable to obtain employment, because unionists have been awarded preference.

Mr SPENCE - Some honorable members who have had no experience of trades unions claim to represent the working man. How can they sustain their claim? They may represent individuals, but they cannot speak for collective bodies of workmen. In a matter of this kind, I hold that the opinions of those connected with unions should carry some weight. I know that the question of granting a preference to unionists means a very great deal to many thousands of em'ployes who are connected with one industry alone.

Mr Mcwilliams - Does not the party to which the honorable member«belongs, represent thousands of workers 'who are not members of trades unions?

Mr SPENCE - Most certainly it does, simply because the non-members of unions tacitly consent to the proposals of their fellows who can speak collectively. Those who carelessly hold aloof from trades unions are in reality consenting parties to their own class organizations. In this connexion I- need scarely remind honorable members that a very large number of those who do' not belong to trades organizations are not necessarily non-unionists. There is one other point which I desire to impress upon honorable members. The granting of a preference to unionists is not only necessary because it is essential to the working of this measure - a most important consideration in itself - but also because it is desirable to give to the" workers something like an equality of opportunity in the matter of earning their livelihood. So far I have not heard any honorable member object to trades unions as such. It is most extraordinary that the opponents of the preference proposal should attempt to justify their attitude upon the ground that the adoption of that provision would operate unfairly in the case of those who do not choose to join trades unions. We ask that a preference shall be extended to unionists in order that they may be given an equal opportunity to obtain work. In the absence of such a preference they have not an equal opportunity with the nonmembers of unions of securing employment.

Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) -If . the honorable member holds that view, how can he support the proposal of the Government?

Mr SPENCE - I can only discuss one question at a time. The proposal of the Government is not before us. The opportunity to discuss it has been denied to us by . honorable members opposite. 1 would point out that a considerable percentage of employers prefer to engage unionists to any other workmen. A large percentage merely seek to obtain the services of men who are able to perform the work for which they are engaged. They do not concern themselves with the question of whether their employes are unionists or otherwise. There is, however, a still larger percentage of employers who will not engage a unionist if they can secure the services of a non-unionist,, and who are prepared to offer the latter improved conditions to prevent him from joining a. trades organization. Upon the whole, therefore, I maintain that the non-member of a union has an advantage over the unionist in the matter of obtaining employment. The honorable member for Parramatta knows that what I am saying is correct. It is the practice of a number of employers to boycott unionists. To defeat that practice we must offer a preference to them. I need scarcely point out that the non-member of a union makes no sacrifice for the maintenance of fair conditions under which he may earn his livelihood. He leaves the entire burden to be borne by the unionists. The latter not only have to risk their employment, to contribute to the maintenance of trades organizations, which secure for them improved conditions, but, as a matter of fact, they have less chance of obtaining work than have non-members of unions. Consequently, I say that if collective bargaining is to be the basis of this Bill it is necessary that we should extend a preference to unionists. I take it that this legislation has been introduced to provide a remedy for industrial disputes, and to maintain fair conditions between employers and employes. Nothing can be done in the absence of collective bargaining. It is only through industrial organizations that we can promote industrial peace. To my mind the honorable and learned member for Wannon made a most extraordinary statement this afternoon. Seeing that it emanated from a legal luminary, it fairly staggered me. He declared that this Bill contains no provision which will prevent men from leaving their employment, despite the fact that we have all along been assured that under it employes cannot collectively discontinue work. I think that if, under its operation, the honorable and learned member advised a body of men to quit their employment without giving due notice to their employers he would find that he had made a mistake

Mr Hutchison - Any person can break a law, but the point is that he is liable to punishment for so doing.

Mr SPENCE - There is no doubt in my mind that this Bill will prevent strikes by depriving the workmen of power tp leave their employment collectively.

Mr Mcwilliams - Nothing of the kind.

Mr SPENCE - Every authority upon the subject entertains a different view from that expressed by the honorable member. As a matter of fact, several of the clauses in this measure declare that when an industrial dispute occurs, the work in the particular industry affected must continue. The men cannot discontinue their employment as a body, because that is a punishable offence. If . a dispute arises, they are compelled under the provisions of this Bill to carry on the industry affected until that dispute has been settled.

Mr Mcwilliams - When it has been settled, cannot a man leave his employment after having given due notice?

Mr SPENCE - I am dealing with the statement of the honorable andlearned member for Wannon, who declared that the employes could leave their work in a body. That statement is pure nonsense. In support of his contention he quoted the Teralba case, which has been previously mentioned. I hold that it is nscessary to extend a preference to unionists, for the reasons which I have advanced. The amendment which was carried at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, provides that before any such preference shall be granted the consent of a majority of the employes affected by the award of the Court shall be obtained. What does that mean? The furniture trade in Melbourne is practically monopolized by the Chinese. Under the amendment of the honorable and learned member, before a preference could be granted to unionists, it would be necessary to obtain the consent of a large number of the Chinese engaged in that industry, because the European employes constitute a minority. I do not know whether the honorable and learned member for Corinella desires to place the furniture trade exclusively in the hands of Chinese, but that would be the effect of his amendment.

Mr Bamford - The Chinese engaged in that trade out-number the Europeans by six to one.

Mr SPENCE - I believe it is a fact that they immensely out-number the European furniture makers.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How could a dispute affecting Melbourne alone, be brought under the operation of this Bill?

Mr SPENCE - I am surprised that the honorable member for Parramatta should favour such a proposal. He is an old trades unionist, who received his training amongst the staunchest unionists in the world - I refer to the coal miners. He understands something about this matter, and I did not include him in the category of those who voted upon the amendment in ignorance of what its effect would be. Unions relating to the furniture trade are, like most other bodies of a similar kind, rapidly federating, and as soon as that work has been completed Inter-State disputes may readily arise. In that event, if an organization applied to the Court to grant a preference to unionists, it would have to show that it represented a majority of all persons likely to be affected by the award, including the Chinese cabinet-makers of Melbourne and other cities. Then, again, let us consider for a moment what would be the position in regard to seamen. It is admitted that the rejection of certain clauses may render it impossible for certain seamen to come under this Bill ; but, upon the passing of the Navigation Bill, vessels on which lascars are employed will be brought under the control of the Court. Consequently, under the clause as it stands, it would he necessary for the Federated Seamen's Union, in applying for a preference, to show that it represented a majority of those to be affected by the award, including Iascar sfamen. Every one knows that one European sailor can do as much work as can two, or even three, lascars, yet the latter would have equal voting power. Although they receive only 15s. per month, as against j£6 and j[j a month paid to European sailors* they would have equal voting powers under the honorable and learned member's amendment.

Mr Bamford - As a matter of fact, the physical weakness of the Iascar would lead to an increase in his voting strength, because three lascars are employed to do the work of one ordinary European seaman.

Mr SPENCE - Exactly. How would it be possible to obtain their consent to such an application? There is no machinery provided in the Bill, nor is any proposed, to enable effect to be given to the honorable and learned member's amendment. We expect much from the lawyers ; but not one legal member of the House has framed any proposal that would enable the opinion of Iascar seamen to be ascertained, although such machinery would be necessary to make the provision workable. It would be necessary to prepare a list of the seamen, and to put before the Court something which might reasonably be regarded as evidence that the union had the approval of these men. What evidence would the Court require in regard to the position taken up by Chinese .cabinet-workers on an application by the furniture trades unions for a preference ? The Chinese are most astute, and evade the law to a greater extent than does any other section of the community. And so with the lascars. The Court would not be justified in accepting a mere statement on the part of an officer or an organization, that the lascars had consented to an application for, a preference to unionist seamen. He would have to present a statement, compiled from ships' books, showing that a certain number of these men were employed, and that a vote had been taken to ascertain their opinions on the subject. The amendment, which was carried on the- motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, was an attempt to introduce something entirely foreign to the main principle of the Bill. It would be absolutely unworkable. If honorable members desire to wreck the Bill, they will do well to vote for the retention of the clause as it stands ; but if, on the other hand, they are honest in their protestation, that they favour the principle of conciliation and arbitration, they will support the Government proposal. If we provide that an organization, applying for a preference, shall show that it substantially represents the majority of persons likely to be affected by the award, the Judge will have a discretionary power. There is a limit to the length to which we, as a party, may go, and I contend that it would be positively wicked for us to accept an amendment which is calculated to seriously impair the working of a clause of the greatest importance to unionists. It is obvious that the Government are endeavouring to meet the wishes of those who say that some limitation to the power to grant a preference is necessary. They have prepared an amendment) providing that an organization when applying for a preference shall show that it substantially represents a majority of those to be affected by the award, because they recognise that it would be exceedingly difficult to obtain proof that an application was supported by an absolute majority. They have gone as far as they can be reasonably expected to go, and it is remarkable that honorable members are not prepared at once to accept their proposal. The Government proposition would really carry out the object which the honorable and learned member for Corinella and those who support his amendment have in view. It would go a step further than the arbitration laws of Australia and New Zealand. How much further are we to go? I think (hat I shall be justified in referring at this stage to incidents associated with an industry in which I am interested, even if it be only to show the need for a measure of this kind. An organization which was characterized by the right honorable member for East Sydney as one that is run in the interests of the employers - I refer to the Machine Shearers' Union - has lately been rather conspicuous. A man whom I know was recently engaged in Melbourne, and was .given a list of places in which he would be able to secure employment as a shearer. He was told, however, that before that employment would be forthcoming it would be necessary for him to pay a subscription of 7s. 6d. to the Machine Shearers' Union, and also to lodge a deposit of £1. He complied with these conditions, but after being kept waiting for some time, was told that he could not be given work. At first his demand for a refund of his money was refused, and it was only when he threatened to take legal proceedings that he secured the return of his deposit. The subscription fee of 7s. 6d. has not yet been refunded. This shows that men are- compelled to join a certain union, in the interests of employers, in order to obtain employment, and that they are requested to pay a membership fee even before work is obtained for them. The Workers' Union does not lay down any such stipulation. A man is invited to join the Union, but is not asked to at once pay his contribution to it. He is allowed practically to work his shed out before being called on to pay his subscriptions, the desire of the Union being that he shall first have an opportunity to send some money to his family. In the case of the Machine Shearers' Union, however, a man is required to pay his subscription even before work is found for him. The incident to which I have referred shows the necessity for some such Bill as this. By resorting to such a system, the employers may create intolerable conditions. Under the Bill, as it stands, .nen will be prohibited from organizing a strike; they will be placed in an almost helpless position, and compelled, it may be, to live practically under conditions of slavery. The situation is a very serious one, and no consideration should intervene to prevent us from passing a law which is so urgently required. The Bill is not as perfect as I should like it to be ; but, so far ns the question of preference is concerned, 1 am prepared to strain a point, and to accept the Government amendment, because I think it will be workable. It is in keeping with what has been the general practice. On a previous occasion I mentioned that, in granting preferences to unionists, the New Zealand Conciliation and Arbitration Court was guided by the membership of the applicant unions, and that in most cases the unions fairly represented a majority of those engaged in the industry. The honorable and learned member for Wannon was able to cite only three cases dealt with by the New South Wales Arbitration Court in which that was not the position. Much has been said about the case of the Broken Hill miners. One may be easily misled by the figures, however, because the Broken Hill mines employ a number of men who are not actually working underground. I have not before me the details of the application for an award, but I know that the underground miners always play a prominent part in such matters, and when we separate the number actually concerned in the award from those who were not, we find that the union represented a very large proportion of those employed in the mines. I hope that the proposal to limit the discussion of this measure to the House will be rejected. We have reached the final stages, and should have regard to the fact that many thousands of men having families dependent upon them are hoping to secure by the passing of this Bill a certain degree of social justice. That fact should over-ride all other considerations. Whatever may be our view as to who is best fitted to carry on the Government of the Commonwealth, I hold that we should not sacrifice this measure merely because of any party feeling.

Mr Mcwilliams - Why make a party question of this amendment?

Mr SPENCE - Because we have reached a certain stage at which it is necessary to do so. It appears to me that the honorable and learned member for Corinella has made out no case against the Government proposal; he has certainly failed to show that we should refrain from recommitting the clause. It can be better discussed in Committee.

Mr Mcwilliams - Why ?

Mr SPENCE - Because in Committee we can make such alterations as may be necessary. When we are in Committee an honorable member is at liberty to bring forward any proposal that specially commends itself to him, and to move that it be carried into effect; but in the House he can make only one speech.

Mr Mcwilliams - That is quite enough.

Mr SPENCE - It may be too much for some honorable members, but the practice of dealing with a Bill in Committee is a time-honoured one, which we have copied from the mother of Parliaments. We are able to thresh out all the details of a Bill much more readily in Committee than in the House. The objection has been, taken to the provision which the Government wish to substitute for that of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that its language is not clear; but that defect might be remedied in Committee. I am losing my faith in the honorable and learned member. At the start, I thought he was a friend of the Bill, and I hope that he is not even now entirely an enemy to the measure; but if the clause as amended by him is passed into law, it will ruin the Bill.

Mr McCay - That is a matter of opinion.

Mr Watson - Honorable members opposite know that it will do so, and I hope that the country will know it, too.

Mr SPENCE - The Government have been charged with desiring to retain office, but if that charge were true, would they declare this to be a vital' issue, supposing that they did not firmly believe that the provision would make the measure inoperative? Can a Labour Ministry agree to place upon the statute-book a measure which they know would be unworkable, from the fact that the unions would decline to register under it? The Government are really going further, in suggesting the compromise which has been put forward, than I should feel inclined to go if I were in power. They are trying to meet the contention of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that evidence should be placed before the Court which would guide it as to the real facts of the case. I know that over and over again unions have come to terms with employers, under which it has been arranged that preference shall be given to their members. I was once secretary to a' union which had an arrangement with the employers in a district that no one who was not a member of the union, and had not paid his fees, should be allowed to work in it; and similar arrangements are quite common in American agreements. No one can show that this has caused any harm. The Government are going a long way to meet honorable members opposite in agreeing that a majority of those concerned must ask for a preference before it can be granted by the Court; but whereas they are of opinion that the Judge should be satisfied that those applying for the preference substantially represent the majority - and evidence could be given to sustain that position - honorable members opposite wish the existence of the majority to be absolutely proved. I could show that the Australian Workers' Union substantially represents those connected with the shearing and pastoral industry of New South Wales, but I could not mathematically prove that it represents a majority of the persons connected with that industry. I appeal to those who wish to see this Bill passed to accept the offer of the Government, and to vote against the amendment to the motion to go into Committee. We cannot hide from ourselves the fact that the Government came into power because of a stand made on one of the clauses of this Bill. A majority supported the position which the members of the Labour Party then took up. Since then, we have navigated the Bill through its Committee stages. Will honorable mem-, bers, therefore, be honest in voting against the proposed recommittal ? If they do so, will they not be actuated by the desire to place some other party in power?

Mr Mcwilliams - Who threw out the challenge ?

Mr SPENCE - No challenge has been thrown out; but the Government would be recreant to their duty, and unworthy of support, if they agreed to . the passing of a measure which they knew would be worthless. It may be a new feature in the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth to have a Government which has the courage to take this stand. The Government are prepared to go further than their supporters would like to go, and further than those outside who take an active interest in these matters wish to go. Under the circumstances, it looks as if honorable members opposite were trying to put the Government out of office because they think they will gain popularity for opposing the giving of preference to unionists. Those who honestly desire to make the clause perfect will not vote against the motion for a recommittal. The honorable and learned member for Corinella and others know that the clause could be discussed more freely in Committee than in the House. Does he take up the position that its drafting is absolutely perfect, so that not a letter or word in it should be altered? Either the honorable and learned member and those who support him are afraid of the result of going into Committee, or there is something behind his amendment. It has already been insinuated that the object in view is not that which is ostensible. If so, let it be stated. The Government are open and aboveboard, and the party which supports them say what they want. Will honorable members opposite sacrifice the interests of the masses outside merely to obtain possession of the Treasury benches? Those who are taking advantage of this opportunity to displace the Government are the enemies of the unions.

Mr Mcwilliams - The party to which the honorable member belongs did not hesitate to oust the Deakin Government under similar circumstances.

Mr SPENCE - I do not know how many leaders of the Opposition there may be now ; but it is a somewhat suspicious circumstance that neither of the two principal leaders have yet spoken on the amendment. Do honorable gentlemen oppose the motion to go into Committee because they think that they can obtain an extra vote if the division is taken with Mr. Speaker in the chair ? That has been suggested. It will be a discredit to the Parliament if a measure of this kind, which means so much to thousands of persons outside, is defeated merely to secure the downfall of the Government. I am certain that the present Administration are not afraid to take the chances of defeat, but surely the Bill should not be used as a weapon against them. If we are to have a party fight, let it be an open one. Does the right honorable member for East Sydney think that he can obtain possession of the Treasury benches without moving a motion of censure?

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is not now in order.

Mr SPENCE - Perhaps I am not, but I think it best to speak plainly, and I cannot help saying that the position is very peculiar. I beseech honorable members w allow this Bill to be got out of the way before the decks are cleared for action. The amendment carried bv the honorable and learned member for Corinella was moved immediately after a division had- been taken, and very few honorable members really understood it. I believe that copies of it had not been distributed.

Mr McCay - Yes; it was printed and distributed.

Mr SPENCE - I, for one, would certainly have opposed it, for the reason which I have urged against it this afternoon, that it would make the Bill ineffective, had I had an opportunity to do so.

Mr McCay - The honorable member said . that he would accept it.

Mr SPENCE - I am willing to go a long way to arrive at a compromise in this matter; but the honorable and learned member appears not to recognise that the Government are trying to make an unworkable and impossible provision capable of application. If he were sincere in his desire to improve the Bill, he would accept the compromise they offer, instead of stirring up a fight under very suspicious circumstances. I challenge the leaders df the Opposition and their lieutenants to say what is meant by their action. The Government have been outspoken. Let us first of all get rid of this Bill, which will give relief to thousands who are in difficulties which are daily becoming worse. Do not let us have a fight over what is merely a paltry lawyers' quibble about words. The clause, as it stand, is unworkable, and the unions would decline to register under it, and thus the securing of industrial peace would be impossible. Let us first pass this measure, and then, if we are to have a fight, let it be on a plain issue.

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