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Friday, 12 August 1904

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) - After the breezy speech delivered by the honorable member for Capricornia, I hope that honorable members opposite will extend some little consideration to me. In the first place I should like to know why there should be a conspiracy df silence among members of the Opposition. Every one of them "is eager to speak, but dare not say anything. The honorable member for Werriwa was pulled down last night.

Mr SPEAKER - I do not think that that reference to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa is in order.

Mr PAGE - I was endeavouring to connect the honorable arid learned member with clause 48. I want to give him that preference which he is refusing to unionists. He says that he is not in favour of unions in any shape or form, although, as a- matter of fact, he belongs to one of the most exclusive unions, the members of which enjoy distinct preference. Today's Age contains a report of certain remarks made by the Honorable B. R. Wise, who introduced the New South Wales Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Last night he said - " It was pretty certain that there would be a dissolution of the Federal Parliament - "

I hope that his prognostication is correct. If so, some honorable members will soon get their walking tickets. He went on to say - if not immediately, at least before very long. It was equally certain that the issue of the elections would be whether there was or was not to be a Federal Arbitration Act. If they did not want a Federal Arbitration Act, then clearly it was their duty to vote against it ; but if they did want it, then let them see that they voted for it, and were not misled into voting for a Bill, including the amendment proposed by Mr. McCay, which, he said deliberately, would make arbitration a dead letter. If they wanted the Bill they should not support candidates who posed as friends of arbitration, and yet supported the clause which would make it inoperative. Any Arbitration Act which deprived the Court of power giving preference to unionists would be a dead letter.

Mr Johnson - The honorable gentleman was not game to go to the poll.

Mr PAGE - I do not know whether he was game or not. If he had a safe seat in the Legislative Council of New South Wales, he would be a fool to go to the poll. I do not think that the honorable member would leave his seat in this Chamber to> contest a seat in another House.

Mr Watson - The opponents of theHonorable B. R. Wise were not game to interfere with the Act which he was largely instrumental in placing upon the statutebook.

Mr PAGE - So far as preference to unionists is concerned, I am rather pleased that the present situation has been brought about, because the Bill, in its present form, would have been of very little use to the Australian Workers' Union, the body to which I belong, and which has put such a big bee into the bonnet of the honorable and learned member for Macquarie, Mr. Kelly.

An Honorable Member. - The honorable member for Wentworth.

Mr PAGE - I beg the honorable mem- ' ber for Macquarie' s pardon. Whatever may be his view in regard to this Bill, I know that he has nothing to say against the Australian Workers' Union. It is useless to beat about the bush; and, therefore, I think it well to say that, had it not been for the Australian Workers' Union, in Queensland, six of the nine honorable members who now represent that State, would not be here. Yet, the Opposition are asking us to give up our unions ; they are literally asking us to give up our seats to them. We took the advice which had been gratuitously tendered to us times out of number. It was said to the workers again and again, " Do not strike, but seek redress at the ballotbox. Send men into the Parliaments of the States, who will represent your grievances, and in that way alone will you secure the means of redress." We have adopted that course, and now many honorable members opposite have the assurance to tell us that we have no business here.

Honorable Members. - No.

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