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Thursday, 7 June 1928

Mr NELSON (Northern Territory) . - This clause really extends the penal provisions of the bill, but that fact is camouflaged with the object of deceiving the people. It refers to strikes and lockouts.We all know from practical experience that a strike consists in the refusal of the workers to sell their labour power with the object of either retaining the conditions which at the time they enjoy, or of effecting an improvement upon these conditions. A lockout, on the other hand, results from the refusal of the employers to purchase the labour power of individuals, and is an attempt to starve them into submission with a view to forcing down the conditions under which they are employed. It is an easy matter to furnish proof of a strike. One or two men have only to come out into the open and declare themselves in opposition to the continuation of the work in which they and their fellows are engaged, or something of that sort. A lockout is in an entirely different category. By watering their shares, and by overcapitalization, the employers can readily prove to the court that the industry in which they are engaged cannot afford to pay what is asked, and thus dispose of any suggestion of a lockout. The vicious practice of the lockout has been applied in that way times out of number. There need be only the suggestion of a strike to enable the penal clauses of the act to be invoked; but a lockout must be definitely proved. The onus is placed upon the workers to prove what it is almost impossible to prove. Any man of ordinary intelligence could not fail to follow the arguments which were adduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), however, accused the Leader of the Opposition of having twisted on his own argument, by first of all claiming that the bill would prove most injurious to the trade union movement, and then affirming that the unions would not be injured by it because they would withdraw from the jurisdiction of the court. To my mind, the Leader of the Opposition made out a very clear case. His point was that ultimately no injury would be caused to the trade union movement, but that the system of arbitration, for which he and his party had fought desperately during the last 25 years, would be broken down, because, when thesepenal clauses were invoked, the unions would withdraw from the jurisdiction of the court, and it would be left without anything to do. Under the preceding clause, if an individual offends, the union must be fined. Now insult is to be added to injury by requiring the union to pay the fine of the guilty individual. The whole procedure is Gilbertian; every principle of justice is being violated. It is easy to prove that a strike has been incited or advised, but it is very difficult to prove a lockout. I say advisedly that the bill has been framed to allow the employers to do as they like, and to leave the industrialists no means of defence.

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