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Tuesday, 5 June 1928

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) .- Many eloquent speeches have been made from this side of the House as to the grave dangers threatened by this clause, but no utterance has more eloquently pictured the coercive powers- behind this provision than that made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) tonight. His speech was characterized by a condour influenced by his strong antipathy towards compulsory arbitration. The honorable member was prepared to go a good deal farther in expressing his thoughts upon present-day employers and their observation of awards than many of his more discreet colleagues. We have his testimony that this legislation is introduced with the desire to assist the employer to make use of the economic advantages at his disposal to fight the employee and bring him down upon his bended knees. We have no desire that the community should witness an industrial struggle of that description. Instead, it is our desire to relieve the community of the unfortunate suffering and distressing circumstances that would, of necessity, be associated with such a struggle. The words of the honorable member for Swan were confirmed to some extent by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), in his reply this afternoon to the earlier speeches of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and myself. The honorable gentleman contended that the employers surely were entitled to exorcise the right of selfdefence. The honorable gentleman urged that in the circumstances covered by the clause, the employers should be relieved of the restraints imposed upon them by the existing laws, necessitating an adherence to the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and that they should be permitted to exercise coercive powers at their disposal against their employees when it suits them to do so. The employers must not be permitted to evade their obligations. We have no desire to return to tha system of industrial barbarism 'vh:rh existed in the "good old days." I have here a copy of the minutes of evidence taken in a case that was heard before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as recently as August of last year. This document illustrates clearly the unscrupulous nature of the dealings of many employers engaged in our clothing trade industry, and proves that they are prepared to evade their responsibilities and the awards of the court.

Mr Foster - Several of them have recently closed up because their businesses did not pay.

Mr MAKIN - It is far more honorable for them to close than to endeavour to escape the payment of award rates to the girls that they employ. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) wishes to return to the times when no restraint was placed upon employers. These employers are not content with trying to break the law; they have endeavoured in some instances to bribe union, officials in order to keep their mouths shut.

Mr Foster - I do not believe it.

Mr MAKIN - It is here in sworn evidence, and during the course of this debate I hope to quote many extracts from this document. This is evidence given upon oath, and any witness making false statements is liable to the penalty of the law. Yet no such action has been taken, which indicates that the evidence is the truth. It ill becomes the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) to hold a brief for people who are prepared to evade their responsibilities. I am surprised to think that the honorable member is prepared to exert his influence to champion employers who are not prepared to honour the awards of our Arbitration Court. I remind the honorable member, and all honorable members opposite, that the worker is compelled by the law of the land to place his trust in our system of arbitration.

Mr Seabrook - The workers do not honour the awards of the court.

Mr MAKIN - Ninety-eight per cent, of the workers of Australia are loyally abiding by the provisions of our Arbitration Court awards.

Mr Seabrook - -Rubbish

Mr MAKIN - The honorable member is no authority upon anything resembling commonsense, therefore I do not seek any opinion from him in this matter. The honorable member knows very well my views concerning him, and there is no need for me to amplify my previous expressions of opinion about Mm. He is without peer as an extremist tory, and a retrogressive reactionary.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - (Mr. Duncan Hughes). - Order! I ask the honorable member, to confine his remarks to clause 7 of the bill. His present references to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) are rather provocative.

Mr MAKIN - They are not more than the honorable member deserves. The Government is upholding the principle that might is right. During the war the counsels of justice and morality were scattered to the four winds of heaven, and might was enthroned as the only law to be observed. The Government is now seeking to establish that law in industry. It is endeavouring to place in the hands of the employers an instrument which will enable them to exercise all the old forms of tyranny, intimidation and persecution which the trade union movement had. to fight in the years gone by. I know something of the methods of other days, for I was persecuted because of my trade union principles. Endeavours were made to force me to accept lower wages than those fixed in the award governing the industry in which I was engaged. I was employed for eight months by Messrs. Hawke Brothers," of Kapunda, in the division of Wakefield. One would imagine that long before eight months had elapsed the employers could ' have ascertained my capacity as a workman, but the means which they adopted of dispensing with my services was to offer me further f employment at a weekly wage 3s. less than that fixed in the wages board award. They knew very well that my principles would not allow me to accept this wage. At Kapunda, in the days of which I speak, we had to hold our meetings in secret for fear of intimidation and persecution by the employers. I thought those days had gone for good, but the Government is endeavouring to bring similar conditions into existence to-day. 1 feel sure that every fair-minded person in the community will resist this reactionary procedure. The Government has proclaimed from the house-tops that it desires peace in industry. It even went to the extent of issuing invitations to an industrial peace conference. But at that very time it was preparing for industrial war. As an evidence that the supporters of the Government intend to adopt coercive measures in the near future to try to destroy the trade union movement, I quote the following recent statement of the Honorable George Swinburne, a former candidate for the Senate, who recently secured election to the Legislative Council of Victoria : -

The problem of restoring industrial stability must be tackled, and it may have to be tackled with a big stick.

That statement was made at Armadale, in Victoria. It shows the spirit which animates a section of the employing class, which desires to oppress and suppress the workers, with the object of making bigger profits and paying larger dividends. In my opinion, if this clause is agreed to, it will become an imp of mischief in industry. It will provide the employers with a legal method of evading the orders and determinations of the court and may nullify the efforts of a quarter of a century and the expenditure of thousands of pounds to establish reasonable conditions for the workers. It will also provide the employers with an easy means of legally closing down their works when market conditions are not as favorable as they might be, or when they desire to re-organize their plant at the expense of their employees.

Mr Yates - They will do this when the binns are full.

Mr MAKIN - The Government may rest assured that we shall do our utmost to resist this effort to -assist the privileged class which it represents. It* is well known that within recent times certain captains of industry in Australia have been guilty of going to the extent of even paying men to join trade unions for the special purpose of fomenting trouble so that they may close up when the market is unfavorable and large stocks are on hand, or reorganization of plant becomes necessary. Such tactics are vile and despicable. The Government deserves the condemnation of every rightthinking person for adopting this means of attempting to discredit industrial arbitration. I urge honorable members opposite not to agree to this proposal, for it is extremely dangerous and will make it possible for the employing class to fatten on the sweat and toil of the masses. Instead of bringing lasting peace into industry it will bring war. I shall, no doubt, have many other opportunities to refer to the most anomalous situation that will be created by this legislation. I felt, however, that I could not allow this opportunity to pass without emphasizing, as strongly as Possible, my indignation concerning this measure! which will do so much to promote indus trial unrest and cause dislocation in industry, instead of ushering in an era of industrial peace and general prosperity, and ensuring the welfare and contentment of every citizen of the Commonwealth.

Progress reported.

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