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Wednesday, 10 August 1904

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) - It is useless to beat about the bush. The honor able and learned member for Corinella is plainly averse to the granting of a preference to unionists, but. feels that he dare not openly say so. He would not have moved the amendment which is now under discussion if . that were not the case. Being afraid to vote against granting a preference to unionists, what did he do? He said - "I shall move an amendment which will have the effect of rendering it impossible for a preference to be given to unionists." The fact of the matter is, that the honorable, member's desire is to give a preference to the right honorable member for East Sydney in regard to the Treasury benches. I do not like the Government amendment, and I feel sure that the shearers of Australia will not regard it favorably.

Mr Wilks - If the honorable member were on this side he would vote against it.

Mr HUTCHISON - No. While I do not care for the Government proposal, I certainly care very much less for the honorable and learned member for Corinella's amendment. The Government proposal is an endeavour to induce the House to arrive at a decision that will enable a preference to be given in certain circumstances to unionists. It would be open to the Court to grant a preference, even if there were no reference to the matter in the Bill. The Conciliation and Arbitraton Court of - New Zealand granted a preference to unionists, although that matter at first was not dealt with in the Act on which it is based, and it required nothing but very ordinary data to satisfy it that applicants for a preference represented a substantial majority of those to whom the award would apply. Unless a majority were substantially represented by the organization making the application for a preference, I am sure that the Judge would not grant it, and that the House does not desire that he should have power to do so, in the absence of that condition. The honorable member for Franklin says that if we do not agree to the honorable and learned member for Corinella's amendment - if we do not agree to the clause as it stands - nonunionists will not be able to obtain work. Has a more ridiculous suggestion ever been made? The passing of this Bill will not lead to one individual being employed in excess of the number at present at work. But the honorable member for Franklin and those who think with him are asking the unionists to give up the only power they possess to secure fair wages and fair conditions, in order that non-unionists may in future have a preference.

Mr Mcwilliams - I have never asked for that.

Mr HUTCHISON - But it is that for which the honorable member intends to vote. The shearers, as well as the waterside workers and seamen, would not, I am sure, be favorable to an amendment such as that which was recently carried. It was only another means to destroy the Bill. Let the Bill be destroyed, and we shall know at once that the honorable and learned member for Corinella's amendment was designed to turn out the Government, and to wreck the measure at the same time. The right honorable member for East Sydney says that he would not destroy the Bill. Of course he would not. He wishes to hoodwink the public by making them believe that he is in favour of the principle of arbitration. That is the attitude which has always been taken up by those opposed to industrial legislation, whether in this House or in the States Parliaments. They are always anxious to make the - public believe that they are in favour of something with which they really have no sympathy. What care they for the conditions of the workers as long as they can have the Government of the country in their own hands? What earnestness of purpose is shown by honorable members who merely seek to secure seats on the Treasury benches? The right honorable member for East Sydney, who is anxious to become the leader of this House, held office as Premier of New South Wales for five or six years, but I am not aware of even one industrial measure that was passed by him during that period.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That remark shows how fair the honorable member is.

Mr HUTCHISON - I ask the honorable member to mention one industrial measure that was passed by the New South Wales Parliament while the right honorable member for East Svdney was Premier of that State.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would not pretend to enlighten the honorable member's absolute ignorance.

Mr HUTCHISON - I challenge the honorable member, who was a member of the right honorable member for East Sydney's Ministry, to name a single industrial measure which was carried by it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Members r f the honorable member's party have enumerated them time after time.

Mr HUTCHISON - I shall ask honorable members to look at the amendment which was submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has pretended that he is in favour of giving preference to unionists, and yet he has carried an amendment which will prevent the giving of effect to that principle. Why did he not tell us how the views of all those engaged in an industry could be obtained? I have been a member and an officer of the Shearers' Union for many years, though I am not a shearer by occupation. I should like to know how I would be classed under the honorable and learned member's provision. Should I be allowed to vote? Will the question have to go before the Court, and be thrashed out there, before it can be ascertained who should and who should not vote? At the present time it takes many months to get a ballot of the members of the union.

Mr Johnson - The honorable member would feel aggrieved if his vote did not count.

Mr HUTCHISON - Yes ; but I would feel more aggrieved if a unionist did not get a preference against a non-unionist who was sacrificing nothing. The Bill was introduced, not because non-unionists have stood up for fair conditions and good wages, and have been the cause of strikes, but because the unionists have demanded what they believe to be just and reasonable. It is the unionists to whom preference should be given, because it is they alone who are making concessions. There has been no greater opponent of strikes than I have been. I had something to do with the prevention of a strike in the shearing industry two years ago. That strike was settled voluntarily, but the result was that next year a dispute was inevitable, through the refusal of the pastoralists to negotiate, and then we won all along the line. Do honorable members think that I would counsel the unionists to give up the only weapon they possess, in the power to strike, if they are to get nothing in return ?

Mr Johnson - Does the honorable member suggest that the non-unionists should starve ?

Mr HUTCHISON - No one who is not now starving will starve under the Bill. If the Bill is amended, as the Government wish to amend it, some of those who' are being badly treated now will receive what a properly constituted Court will decide are fair conditions and fair wages. Every one who opposes the Bill opposes the granting of fair conditions to a large number of workers. The unionists have never asked for advantages in which the non-unionists have not shared. I, myself, have been boycotted for standing up for my just rights. It is the unionists who suffer in every case ; but hundreds and thousands of non-unionists have benefited by their action in standing up for their rights. Throughout the world the worst paid labour is that of the unorganized workers. This is not a Bill for them. Who are fighting for the unorganized workers?Is it those who are opposing the Bill? No. What are they doing for them ? The unionists however, are working as hard in the interests of the non-unionists as in their own interests. The honorable member for Franklin asked what is the object of going into Committee. It has been said that we can discuss the matter in the House; but what is the use of discussing it if a majority is ready to prevent the clause from being recommitted, an'd a vote taken on the Government's amendment ? The issue is not the improvement of the clause, but the wrecking of the measure. Free-traders and protectionists are combined to defeat the Labour Party.

Mr McCay - And other free-traders and protectionists are combined in the Labour Party.

Mr HUTCHISON - We are not afraid to face the country under present conditions. It is always recognised that the Government in power have the right to conduct the business of the country, and I have never seen a more shameful attempt to take the business out of the hands of Ministers than that which is being made to-night. If honorable members think that they have a majority against a reasonable amendment - an amendment with which I have very little sympathy - why do not they consent to the recommittal, and vote against it in Committee? The Government are going as far as they can in order that the Bill may have a trial. They are prepared to allow the Court to decide what is a substantial number. Why should it be necessary to have the consent of a majority of all concerned ? If the majority of workers in a trade are suffering from bad conditions, why should a minority be debarred from going to the Court, and asking for -what is fair and just, both for themselves and for every other member of their industry? That is the question which we could discuss if honorable members would allow the Bill to be recommitted. Those who oppose the motion for recommittal are not considering the workers at all.

Mr Conroy - The unionists only represent one out of everv seven of the workers.

Mr HUTCHISON - The honorable and learned member is quite wrong. But even if the unionists did represent only one out of every seven of the workers, the Court would not give a unionist . anything which would not benefit the six non-unionists. The honorable member for Franklin either did not know, or was afraid to quote, the wages paid in many trades in Tasmania. He spoke of the clause as an attempt to reduce the workers to slavery ; but does he know how some of them live? If he does not. let him read 'such works as the People of the Abyss, by Jack London, or Charles Booth's work on London, and Rowntree's work on York. The statements therein contained are unchallengeable, and, unfortunately, they are fast becoming applicable to the Commonwealth. Two years ago it was found necessary in Adelaide for the unionists to collect funds for distribution, not only amongst those out of employment, but amongst those in employment, who were being sweated. That sweating still continues.

Mr SPEAKER - The question before the Chair is whether particular clauses should be recommitted.

Mr HUTCHISON - I am trying to give general reasons for the recommittal. There, is intense suffering among the. workers in every State which does not possess arbitration laws. It has never been shown that preference has done harm. In this connexion I would like to read an opinion expressed by Mr. Justice Cohen, of the New South Wales Arbitration Court, who has had experience on the subject which we have not had, and is, therefore, able to speak with authority in regard to it. No one will question his impartiality. He is reported to have said -

He had no leaning one way or the other, but in the public interest it would be far better, if the preference clause was being unduly used as a means of oppressing or harassing employers, that the Court should be assisted by evidence of that. From the general statements he saw in the press this preference clause was stated to be a means of harassing the employer and placing him in an unfair position of working his business. It would be much better if the Court were enlightened by evidence of these things they read of. General assertions were made with regard to what the Court had done which would not bear any test. They were absolutely without any foundation.

Mr. JusticeCohen has had more experience of legislation of this kind than any one else in the Commonwealth has had.

Mr Kelly - If his remarks had been directed against the Bill the honorable gentleman would have called him a political Judge.

Mr HUTCHISON - I should have said that he was lacking in experience, or was prejudiced. No Judge who had had experience of the working of legislation of this kind would be guilty of such statements.

Mr Conroy - No doubt the honorable member thinks that he would cease to be a Judge if he made such statements.

Mr HUTCHISON - He would cease to be a Judge, and would have become a partisan. I am sorry to say that one of the Judges in the Commonwealth has shown himself to be a partisan in this matter. The honorable member for Franklin says that we are trying to reduce the workers to a condition of slavery, by compelling them to join unions. I have belonged to more than one union, but no one has been compelled to join those unions. Men join unions only when they choose to do so, and all the Bill says is that a man must join a union if he wishes to take advantage of the provisions of the measure. Honorable members opposite profess to agree to that. The honorable member for North Sydney said that he would compel every worker to join a union for the special purposes of this Bill. That is more than we on this side of the Chamber asked for. The workers cannot be reduced to a worse state of slavery than that in which some of the non-unionists exist. Those who know anything about the clothing trade will support that statement.

Mr Conroy - Is it just to compel a man to join a union, whether he wishes to do so or not?

Mr HUTCHISON - I object to compelling men to "join unions whether they wish to do so or not. But it is quite fair for the unionists to say that the man who will not join a union should be above taking the advantages which are gained by the exertions of unionists. The hollowness of the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is shown by the fact that it would be impossible to ascertain under it who are the members of an industry.

Under the conditions he proposes it would be impossible to find out who followed any particular calling, and no one knows better than does the honorable and learned member that his proposal is merely a subterfuge.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Some men would have to belong to a dozen unions in order to obtain work.

Mr HUTCHISON - It is not necessary to belong to a union in order to obtain work at present, but if there were no unions the workmen of the Commonwealth would be very much dissatisfied with the pay they were receiving. The most intelligent workmen connected with every trade are banded together in unions. Is it to be supposed that these men do not know what operates to their advantage? I should leave my union to-morrow if I did not think it conferred benefit upon those associated with It. The unionists are now called upon to surrender all their present rights of resistance to oppression, and to place it in the power of the Judge to determine how their means of livelihood shall be regulated. Therefore, they should get something in return for that which they are giving up. In conclusion, I would point out that not only honorable members on this side of the Chamber, but the electors of the Commonwealth generally, will see what is behind the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and will support the Labour Party when an appeal is made to the country.

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