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Thursday, 11 August 1904

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must not refer to another debate.

Mr KENNEDY - The threats which have been made by the honorable member for Gwydir cause a feeling of resentment on my part, not against honorable members opposite personally, but against the line of action which they are following in deal ing with a question of policy affecting the whole industrial life of Australia. It is beyond question that an important principle is embodied in clause 48. I have nothing but admiration to express in regard to the action of the honorable and learned member for Corinella in bringing this matter to an issue in the way he has done. I have already stated that the Government have had practically a month in which to think over the situation, and, if possible, improve upon the proviso now in the Bill. What do we find? After a month's stewing over the situation, the Government now submit a proposal which is substantially the same as that embodied in the Bill. I venture to say that greater discretion would be vested in the Court under the present proviso than if the Government proposal were adopted.

Mr Crouch - Under those circumstances, the honorable member ought to support the Government proposal.

Mr Robinson - The honorable and learned member for Corio voted against any preference whatever. He voted to strike out the clause altogether.

Mr KENNEDY - What is the explanation of the honorable and learned member's sudden conversion? Is he afraid of a possible dissolution upon the removal of the present Government from the Treasury benches ?

Mr Crouch - I was returned as a protectionist, and I am concerned as to the fate of the Government.

Mr KENNEDY - I am just reminded that, in the event of the House refusing to consent to the recommittal of clause 48, a Free-trade Ministry may assume office, and in that connexion it would be quite pertinent for me to direct attention to the fiscal views entertained by members of the present Ministry. The honorable and learned member for Corio has overlooked the divergent fiscal views of members of the present Ministry.

Mr SPEAKER - That has nothing to do with the matter under discussion.

Mr KENNEDY - I do not think it has. I was simply replying to the remark of the honorable and learned member for Corio, and I do not propose to pursue the matter any further. I would direct the attention of honorable members to the question immediately before the House. The Prime Minister tells us that the amendment which he suggests is substantially the same as the proviso inserted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Those who say that it is impossible to ascertain what number of employes in any particular industry would constitute a majority, forget that we have statistics available, which are, for all practical purposes, absolutely reliable. We know that we can rely upon the figures given in the Statistical. Register from time to time with regard to the number of miners engaged in coal mining, or gold mining, or other branches of that industry, and that we can also arrive at a very good idea as to the number of hands engaged in the various factories in our cities. We can even ascertain approximately the number of bush workers.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - There are no statistics showing the number of bushworkers.

Mr KENNEDY - Take the case of the shearers, by way of illustration. We can arrive at a fairly good idea as to the number of shearers engaged in the different States, and it is absurd to confuse the number of men actually engaged in that occupation with those who were shearing fifteen or twenty years ago.

Mr Poynton - It is not a question of those who were working fifteen years ago only, but of those who were working last vear, and who mav be shearing next year.

Mr KENNEDY - We were told by the Prime Minister that those who were shearing fifteen years ago were still shearers for the purposes of the Bill. If that view were correct, I might be regarded as a shearer, because the honorable member for Grampians has promised, if necessity arises, to give me a pen in his shed. If the honorable member intends to ship all his wool home, however, it may not be advisable for him to give me that opportunity. There is a difference in phraseology, but not in substance, between the Government proposal and the provision now in the Bill. The clause, as it stands, provides that before the Court grants a preference to unionists it must be satisfied that a majority of those affected indorse the application. It will be within the discretion of the Court to say whether or not a majority is represented by the applicants. Under the Government proposal, practically the same provision would be made with regard to the numbers represented by any organization that might apply for preference. The Court, before directing that preference shall be given, must be satisfied that the organization substantially represents the industry affected in point of numbers.

Mr Webster - And what else?

Mr KENNEDY - I am now dealing with the numbers, because, as the provision now stands, no reference is made to competence. I am dealing with the points of similarity between the Government proposal and the proviso in the Bill. The clause, as it stands at present, provides that the majority must assent before the Court can grant a preference. I contend that exactly the same condition must prevail under the amendment suggested by the Government.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Then why should all this fuss be made; why do not honorable members accept the Government proposal ?

Mr KENNEDY - I want to know what all the fuss is about. Is not the amendment suggested by the Government intended to afford them an easy stairway by which they can escape from a difficult situation? It seems to me to be that, and nothing more.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - No. We think there is a difference.

Mr KENNEDY - -I grant that there may be legitimate grounds for a difference pf opinion.

Mr Thomas - Does the honorable member think that there is no difference?

Mr KENNEDY - Substantially, I do not think there is any difference with regard to the numbers who will be required to indorse the application for preference. There is, however, a difference between the Government proposal and the provision in the Bill, in so far as the Government amendment refers to the question of competence.

Mr Hughes - The honorable member has already been told that the provision which the Government propose is based upon the practice adopted by the New South Wales Court.

Mr KENNEDY - It does not follow that we should adopt the provision because it is contained in the New South Wales Act.

Mr Hughes - I did not say that. I said that it followed the practice adopted by the New South Wales Court.

Mr KENNEDY - Even so, it does not follow that we should adopt it.

Mr Hughes - No; but that affords an excellent reason why the Government should bring it forward.

Mr KENNEDY - There is no provision for preference in the Western Australian Arbitration Act.

Mr Carpenter - That is a great defect in the Act.

Mr KENNEDY - It may be. I have already stated, in connexion with clause 48, and my vote on a former occasion proved the truth of my words, that I am prepared to give preference to members of organizations. I think that it is essential to the efficient working of the Bill that practically every person engaged in any industry should become a member of an organization. The Bill can never really be made effective unless we can deal with the workers as members of organizations. I differ from the Government and their supporters, however, with regard to the provisions which should be embodied in the rules of industrial organizations. I do not think that the organizations should be permitted to coerce persons to subscribe to objects other than those which are contemplated bv the Bill.

Mr Poynton - The provisions relating to that matter have been omitted.

Mr KENNEDY - They have not been omitted. The Government refused, point blank, to adopt a provision to the effect that the funds of the industrial organizations under the measure should not be used for purposes other than those contemplated by the Bill.

Mr Poynton - That condition has been imposed in the case of those unions which apply for preference - that is in the Bill.

Mr KENNEDY - It is not in the Bill, and I hold that such a clause should have been contained in the measure. The rules of an organization should not contain any provision which could have the effect of coercing any of its members in regard to matters of principle, unless the purposes of this Bill were at issue.

Mr Poynton - Look at sub-clause b of clause 62.

Mr KENNEDY - I have read that provision, in addition to all the other clauses. It was only after I had voted in favour of extending a preference to unionists, and after the Government had refused point-blank to safeguard the interests of non-members of any organization, that I reserved to myself the right to achieve that end, by any subsequent proposal. That was why I supported the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, which to my mind will prevent a minority from coercing a majority.

Mr Webster - An unorganized majority.

Mr KENNEDY - They may constitute an unorganized majority simply because some provision may be embodied in the rules of an organization, which is repugnant to the mind of any fair individual. Upon a previous occasion I quoted an instance in which a union that was registered under the New South Wales Arbitration Act applied to the Court for the cancellation of the registration of another union. What happened? Its application was refused, because its rules were deemed to be repugnant to any fair-minded man. That, I think, is sufficient justification for my attitude upon this question. Honorable members opposite have threatened us with all sorts of pains and penalties because of our action upon the present occasion. We have been told that a dissolution of Parliament will follow the defeat of the Ministry. I have contested three elections within a period of twelve months, and have had an appeal lodged with the Elections and Qualifications Committee against my return thrown in. Consequently, threats of that sort have no terrors for me. When I go down, I shall do so with a clear conscience. Now that this issue has been raised, I do not think that the Government or their supporters can show us any justification for the lamentations which we have heard from every speaker upon the other side of the chamber. The gauntlet has been thrown down. It has been thrown down upon a question of policy upon which the Government have had a month' to reflect. During that period they have been constantly inviting the Opposition to meet them in mortal combat. But now that their political scalps are at stake they want to defer a decision upon the issue for another week. Their constant cry is "Wait until to-morrow."

Mr Tudor - The Opposition have cried " Wait until next week," ever since the Labour Ministry took office.

Mr KENNEDY - Now that the attack is being made, whence do the lamentations proceed ?

Mr Carpenter - They are all coming from the opposite side.

Mr McDonald - We are quite happy.

Mr KENNEDY - The great trouble with the Government supporters is that they are not to be allowed sufficient time to effect the conversion of some of those who intend to vote against the recommittal of this clause. Only yesterday they, in effect, exclaimed, "Are we to be tested upon this question at once. Le.t us have another week for underground tactics."

Mr Spence - The honorable member seems to be experienced in underground work.

Mr KENNEDY - I have been accused of engaging in it, but I confess that I have yet a lot to learn. When honorable members opposite charge others with underground engineering, it would be just as well if 'they supported their statements with facts. It is not sufficient to make bald assertions. It has been urged by the Government supporters that they have been deprived of an opportunity of putting their position fairly. But I would ask, "Have they not exactly the same opportunity of doing so as have honorable members upon this side of the chamber?"

Mr Spence - Our side do not fear daylight being shed upon their actions.

Mr KENNEDY - When the final appeal to our masters comes, there will be no shuffling upon my part. From the smiles of honorable members opposite one would imagine that in the event of the Government proposal to recommit this clause being defeated, none of those upon this side of the House would see the interior of Parliament again. It is beyond their power to determine whether we shall or not. I ask any of those honorable members who twit me with having abandoned my pledges to my constituents to oppose my election when the time to do so arrives. I candidly admit that if my return were opposed by any honorable member opposite I should find a worthy opponent. I was pledged to the principle of conciliation and arbitration before I entered public life.

Mr Webster - And now the honorable member is seeking to kill it.

Mr KENNEDY - That statement cannot be supported by facts. I heard a similar cry raised when the fate of the Deakin Government was at stake. Those who would not support the amendment submitted by the present Minister of Trade and Customs were branded as traitors to the cause of conciliation and arbitration. I can speak upon this matter as one who has had some experience of strikes and of the evils resulting from them. No sane man who is familiar with the conditions which obtain amongst the dependents of the workers during the period in which a strike is in progress can fail to deplore the evils attendant upon it. There is no fair-minded individual - no matter to what class he may belong - who will not royally welcome any legislative enactment which will have the effect of preventing these industrial troubles, with all the disastrous consequences that follow in their train. We have been assured that if the proposal of the Government be not' adopted within three months, we shall experience a repetition of the wellremembered maritime strike. Surely it does not lie within the mouths of honorable members opposite to make a threat of that sort.

Mr Hughes - Who made that statement ?

Mr KENNEDY - The honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Gwydir.

Mr Webster - I did not.

Mr KENNEDY - I accept the honorable member's denial, and I am prepared to leave it to the records of the House to determine whether his statement or mine is correct. Those who affirm that I am opposed to the principle of conciliation and arbitration ought to be in a position, to prove their contention.. I voiced my objection to clause 48 of this Bill upon the very first opportunity that presented itself. Upon that occasion I took exactly the same stand that I take to-night. I have no desire to burke discussion. The issue before us is clearly defined.

Mr Frazer - The statement which the honorable member made just now is absolutely incorrect, so far as I am concerned.

Mr KENNEDY - I accept the honorable member's denial. To my mind, we are not burking discussion by dealing with this question in the manner that has been adopted. We are asked to decide whether we shall impose a limitation upon the preference provision.

Mr Watkins - The amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella will have the effect of robbing unionists of all preference.

Mr KENNEDY - A similar statement was made in the earlier stages of the consideration of this Bill. It was urged that if honorable members, opposite had to choose between depriving unions of the power to utilize their organizations for political purposes and offering them this Bill, they would throw this measure to the winds. Is it the desire of any fair-minded man, whether he be in the ranks of the workers or the employers, that the organizations to be constituted under this Bill, in order to secure industrial peace, shall be used for party political purposes? That is the point on which I join issue with honorable members opposite.

Mr Spence - But it is not affected by clause 48.

Mr KENNEDY - It is affected by the Bill, of which this clause forms part. When we were dealing with the clause on a previous occasion, I said that, unless the Bill safeguarded the rights and political convictions of individual members of organizations, I should be no party to giving the Court power to grant unqualified preference to unionists.

Mr McDonald - Is not the provision safeguarded by the amendment which was carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs?

Mr KENNEDY - No. I have spoken at greater length than I had intended.

Mr McDonald - Go on.

Mr KENNEDY - I am delighted to think that I have interested honorable members opposite, and I trust that I have not said anything that may be considered to be in any way personal.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - We are only surprised at the views which the honorable member holds, knowing what he does of the situation.

Mr KENNEDY - I have not turned any political somersault. The position which I now take up is that which 1 clearly put before my constituents, and i: will require something more than a threat on the part of any honorable member to induce me to go back on my principles.

Mr Webster - The somersault will come later on.

Mr KENNEDY - I have placed before the House the conclusions at which I have arrived, and, come what may, I shall go down smiling. I shall not ask any honorable member what might be the effect of any vote that I might give upon any action contemplated by Ministers.

An Honorable Member. - The honorable gentleman is going to become a freetrader.

Mr KENNEDY - It is again suggested that I am to be converted into a free-trader. I have yet to learn, however, that my views on the fiscal, or any other question, are likely to be affected in any way according to the side of the House on which I sit. I do not think that there is any justification for the charges which have been levelled against the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I believe that he is fully justified in the course which he has adopted to uphold the position originally taken up by him. He has taken an action which is sanctioned by our rules of procedure, and, as I agree with the object which he has in view, I shall be found voting for the amendment.

Mr Frazer - I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Moira has accused me of having stated, in the course of my speech, before the adjournment for dinner, that if the Opposition did not accept the Bill in its present form there would be a strike within the next three months. That statement is inaccurate. I did not say that there would be an industrial dispute within the next three months, but I did say that in the event of a strike occurring, as the result of the action of honorable members of the Opposition in hanging up this Bill, they would have to accept the responsibility. " '

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