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Tuesday, 13 September 1904

The CHAIRMAN - Order. I ask honorable members, especially those in .'responsible positions, to refrain fro-.n interchanging remarks across the Chamber, and to allow the speaker to proceed, with 'his remarks.

Mr McCAY - I was saying, when I was interrupted, that the late Administration, although it had ample time for considering what clauses it would recommit, and decided, in accordance with its announcement, to recommit clause 48, did not propose to recommit clause 62.

Mr Higgins - Because it was a bargain. . .

Mr McCAY - I do not know why the honorable member for Kennedy, who is a! member of such a solid, indivisible, and allunited party as we read about in the daily press is allowed to break away from his leaders.

Mr Page - It refutes the argument about the caucus.

Mr Frazer - Because' we have freedom of action.

Mr McCAY - One is always pleased to learn these things, however late in the day.

Mr Watson - That condition of affairs has been always existent.

Mr McCAY - If recent events have produced that very desirable result, they have not been in vain.

Mr Watson - It has never been anything different, except in the imagination of the honorable and learned gentleman and his friends.

Mr McCAY - It will be recollected that this particular amendment, in its present form, was carried by a majority of one. The late Prime Minister proposed to reconsider its verbiage with a view to its recommittal later on if it were thought necessary, and, from circumstances over which I presume he had no control, he decided at the last minute to accept its exact verbiage, and Dame Rumour does say that it had some effect on the division which took place a few minutes later. But, apart from that, the late Government accepted this amendment, and the honorable members who spoke on it - particularly such members as the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, and I think the honorable and learned member for Indi, and others - drew attention to the fact that here was a plain, and a more proper, dividing line than the one suggested in my amendment. I cannot say that I yet agree with that view. But, as I said long ago, after the amendment relating to the railway servants was passed, and before even clause 48 was dealt with, whether certain proposals of mine were agreed to or not, I would support the third reading of the Bill. I have no reason to recede from the position which I then took up. I would ask the honorable member for Kennedy, who has now learned from the lips of the late AttorneyGeneral, as well as from the honorable member for Bland, that on a previous occasion an agreement was arrived at that this particular amendment should be accepted, whether he thinks he ought to place his leaders in such an embarrassing position-

Mr Higgins - We are free from bargains now.

Mr McDonald - What happened to the Minister of Defence upon a former occasion, when he left the Turner Party and joined th« McLean Government ?

Mr McCAY - The honorable member is referring to some action of mine upon which my State constituents arbitrated several years ago.

Mr McDonald - They decided against the. honorable and learned member.

Mr McCAY - They did, and I did not pull a poor mouth about the matter, or utter any complaint. I trust that whenever I Have the misfortune to have a spoonful of gruel presented to me I will take it with the best possible grace. I ask the honorable member for Kennedy not to place his leaders in the false position of having to vote against an amendment which they accepted, and of which they approved in the most practical way by declining to submit a proposal in favour of the recommittal of the clause.

Mr Batchelor - Do not worry about us.

Mr McCAY - I am not worrying. The honorable member, I understand, wishes me to worry about myself, but I have not begun to do so yet. I repeat that the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs proposed this amendment, and that the late Administration accepted it. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne now declares that honorable members opposite are free from any bargains into which they previously entered. I venture to hold the view that they are not free, if they wish to be consistent. They agreed to this amendment, and they must have regarded it, individually at any rate, as a practical one. I think that the interjection of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne was really a casual one, and that he scarcely considers himself free to vote against a proposal which he so fully accepted on a former occasion. So far as the proviso itself is concerned, I think that the Committee were practically agreed not only that it was justifiable, but that it was desirable that some line of demarcation should be drawn between political and industrial purposes in organizations either of employers or employes. The only question that arose was as to where that line should be drawn. I think it was the honorable and learned member for Indi . who . pointed out that here, in the progress of an industrial dis: pute, was reached the point at which a non-member of a union had a right to complain of being forced - by the granting of a preference to unionists - to join a union. His view was that, so long as a man was not compelled to join a union by the fact of a preference being extended to its members, he was not concerned with the question of whether politics entered into its affairs or not, but that the moment a pre ference was granted by the Court, he had a right to protest against politics forming any part of its platform. Here, therefore, he urged, a point was reached, at which not only was it permissible, but absolutely proper, that a line of demarcation should be drawn. I thoroughly agree with that view. Personally, I thought that the point should have been reached earlier. I know that the leader of the Opposition agrees with me that no man should feel that he is bound to join a union in order to obtain work, if that union exists for political purposes. Under this provision, therefore, if not at an earlier stage, the purely industrial character of the Bill should begin.

Mr Spence - Does the Minister know any union that has not political objects ?

Mr McCAY - Upon, a former occasion the honorable member himself made a long speech to show that unions were not political organizations. I recollect very well when he spoke from the Government benches, because I occupied a seat in the Ministerial corner.

An Honorable Member. - Why was the Minister there?

Mr McCAY - I occupied that seat in order that I might hear the honorable member to better advantage. I wanted to hear what he had to say. After he had resumed his seat I had the honour to rise and to address myself to the same question. I remember that I discussed the question of whether trades unions were political organizations, and in doing so I referred to the Australian Workers' Union. The honorable member thereupon handed me their deed of association, in order that I might read for myself, and learn that it was not a political body. I read a number of the objects of that union, and it seemed to me that it did partake of the nature of a political organization.

Mr Spence - Nobody has ever denied that.

Mr McCAY - The honorable member wished us to believe that it was not a political body.

Mr Spence - No; I pointed out that in New South Wales a certain portion of its funds were devoted to political purposes.

Mr McCAY - The honorable member urged that, except in New South Wales and Queensland, trades unions were not political organizations. I am sorry that I have not had time to obtain a few quotations from Hansard upon this point, tout it was only when the honorable member for Kennedy proposed the recommittal of the clause that I realized it would be raised, and even then I did not anticipate that the Opposition would take up such an unfriendly attitude towards the Bill'. The position is that after long debate, and earnest consideration, this Committee, by a majority of one, accepted the amendment in its present form, as compared with the amendment in a stronger form. If parliamentary procedure means anything, I may therefore claim that the whole Committee were then agreed that some limitation was desirable.

Mr Frazer - The amendment was only carried by a majority of one.

Mr McCAY - But those honorable members who constituted the minority, desired to obtain a still greater measure of restriction. The amendment in its present form represents the minimum restriction which the Committee would sanction. If the honorable member for Kennedy insists upon pressing his proposal to a division, I venture to say that honorable members will practically unanimously confirm the decision at which they formerly arrived, after a prolonged debate which extended over two or three days. I have no doubt that honorable members who then pointed out so clearly that this was the proper point at which to draw the line of demarcation, still entertain that opinion.

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