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Tuesday, 29 May 1928


Mr THEODORE (Dalley) .- Clause 4 amends section 6 of the act, which deals with the penalty for a strike or lockout. In his reply to the secondreading debate, the Attorney-General was at great pains to explain that the only effect' of this clause was to reduce the penalties which might be imposed on unionists. I differ from the AttorneyGeneral. Section 6 of the act provides for a penalty of £1,000 against an organization in the case of an illegal strike or lockout, but in the bill there is a differentiation between organizations and individuals. The penalty in the case of an organization is still £1,000, but the bill provides for a reduction of the penalty to £50 in the case of an individual worker.


Mr Latham - The penalty on an organization or an employer is £1,000. The honorable member has stated the position wrongly.


Mr THEODORE - The clause states that in the case of " any other person " the penalty shall be £50. The AttorneyGeneral tried to lead the House to believe that the penalty clause in relation to strikes and lockouts had not been altered to the disadvantage of unionists. I call the honorable gentleman's attention to the fact that in this bill there is a wider definition of a strike, or rather that which may be termed a strike.


Mr Latham - But there is no definition of a strike in the bill.


Mr THEODORE - There is no definition in the bill, but clause 8 widens the area of the definition given in section 8 of the principal act. That section defines those things which may be described as a strike or lockout, and this clause widens the scope of that definition.


Mr Latham - If the honorable member reads section 6, he will see that the offence is not a strike, but the doing of " anything in the nature of a lockout or strike " so that there is nothing in the nature of an extension.


Mr THEODORE - If the honorable gentleman, reads clause 8, he will see that, for the purposes of this section, an organization will be " deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment" if certain things are done. Those things apply to the definition of an industrial dispute, and to actions which may be construed as " doing something in the nature of " a strike. This wider definition of what constitutes an offence against the strike clause will bring in a vast number of people never contemplated in the original act.


Mr Latham - Section 8 of the original act deals only with organizations, and any amendment of that section can deal only with organizations.


Mr THEODORE - But by clause 8 that section is amended so as to cover the acts of " a member of the committee of management." An organization is thus to be liable to a penalty of £1,000 for the act of an individual. Hitherto that has not been the case.


Mr Latham - The honorable member's statement as to the effect of clause 8 is inaccurate. A.n organization was previously liable for the act of an individual, if he was an officer of the organization, and it will still be liable for the act of an individual if he is an officer, but not otherwise.


Mr THEODORE - But, under section 6, the organization would not have been liable to a penalty of £1,000 for the action of an individual member of a committee of management. It could not have been adjudged guilty of . an offence under that section because a member of its committee of management had encouraged or incited members of the organization to strike.


Mr Latham - Yes, it could.


Mr THEODORE - Then why is clause 8 necessary?


Mr Latham - I shall deal with that when we reach it.


Mr THEODORE - It is easy for the Attorney-General to dismiss an argument in that way. He has provided for an alteration, of the section relating to the responsibility of an organization that orders its members to refuse to offer or accept employment. Sub-section 2 of section 8 is proposed to be deleted, and a new subsection is to be inserted, the effect of which will be to hold an organization liable to a penalty of £1,000 if even a solitary act of an officer or a member of a committee of management could be construed into being " something in the nature of " a strike, or if he could be regarded as counselling a strike. That is the point that the Attorney-General has not made clear. It is true that the proposed new sub-section 3, of section 8, provides that where the court is satisfied that, after the commission of an offence to which this section applies, the organization or branch has bona fide removed from any office or position held by them, and, where they are members of the organization, has expelled from the organization the persons by reason of whose acts the organization has been found guilty of the offence, the maximum penalty which may be imposed on the organization in respect of that offence shall be £100. But there will still be a penalty applicable to the organization for an act committed by an officer or a member of a committee of management over whom the organization as a whole may or may not have control.


Mr Parkhill - Then it had better see about getting control.


Mr THEODORE - It is easy for an honorable member to suggest that the unions take dictatorial powers and act as autocrats ; but it is not an easy matter for a union to put such powers into practice. Let me cite a case that may serve as an example. Take a federated organization, say, the "Waterside "Workers Association, which seems to be held up to execration by honorable members opposite. That body has branches in nearly all ports in Australia, and those branches are more or less loosely bound together by the federation. That system of organization does not repose complete and autocratic powers in the hands of the central committee ; no organization in Australia can confer that power on such a committee. Assume that some member of a branch committee, possibly in Tasmania, "Western Australia, or Queensland, advises or incites men not to accept employment in an industry in which a dispute exists. In such a case the whole organization would be liable to the penalty of £1,000 provided under section 6.


Mr Watson - Unless it " sacked " that man.


Mr THEODORE - If it "sacked" him it would still be liable to a penalty of £100, and, if it re-admitted him within a' certain period to the organization after having expelled him, it would be liable to the original penalty of £1,000. That is not a rational mode of disciplining a union. It would not add to the power of the Government or the prestige of the court in upholding the principle of arbitration"; but rather would it bring the arbitration law into ridicule and contempt. Cases can be cited where the responsible officers of unions do their level best to help carry on industry in a peaceable way, and honorably observe the awards. . But it would be impossible for them to exercise such tremendous disciplinary control over individual members as to be answerable for every act of every member of a committee of management or other officers of the organization. Yet the AttorneyGeneral requires that an organization making default in this respect shall, for the individual acts of a member of a committee of management be liable to the heavy penalty provided. The Australian Workers Union has 140,000 members distributed throughout Australia. Its officers and members of committees of management number thousands. Is that organization to be threatened with penalties amounting to £1,000 for the act of every individual officer who may advise members of the union against acceptance of employment under terms of an award ? That is an absurd penalty to provide against an organization, and that is why the bill is so objectionable to the unions.







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