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Friday, 8 December 1905

Senator WALKER (New South Wales) - In common withother honorable senators, I rise to state my objection to this proposed legislation. I do not intend to enter into the matter at length, because pretty, well all that can be said has been said, except in regard to one or two minor points. I was rather surprised to read new clause 76A, under which wine-making is excluded from the operation of the workers' label clause. I am still more surprised that brewing is included. Surely brewing, just as much as wine-making, is entitled to exemption. However, the figures quoted by Senator Pulsford are rather reassuring, from my point of view, as they show that only about 28 per cent, of the production of Australia will be affected by the union label. I trust that even though the Bill be passed, boycotting in Australia will be conspicuous by its absence.

Senator MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It may be until after the next election.

Senator WALKER - Unfortunately, there is a good deal of truth in what Senator Pearce says, that boycotting has not been confined to one particular class. As to America, I propose to read a short extract from a labour journal, called the American Federationist. It published the following lines : -

An organizer in Arkansas wrote - " No strikes or locks-out to report. There has been some improvement in working conditions. Good work is being done for the union labels, and all boycotts published by the American Federationist are observed."

Then, again, under the head-line, " We don't patronize" -

The American Federationist gives a list of employers, which includes firms dealing in bread, beer, cigars, flour and meal, meats, oysters, tobacco, whisky, cottons, hats, shirts, shoes, and other commodities. And it introduces this "black-list" with the statement that "union working men and working women and sympathizers with labourhave refused to purchase articles produced by the following."

Senator Findley - Is there anything wrong about that ?

Senator WALKER - It shows that boycotting exists.

Senator Findley - It is merely preferential trade; people prefer to deal with tradesmen who recognise fair conditions.

Senator WALKER - Another objection which I have to these clauses is that they afford no guarantee of quality in respect of the goods to which the union label is applied. Surely it will be admitted that non-unionists are often as good trade people as are those who belong to unions. I believe in the policy of the old trade unionists, because they had no objection to working side by side with those who did not belong to unions.

Senator Findley - There is no guarantee of quality in respect of a manufacturers' trade mark.

Senator WALKER - When people buy goods to which a certain mark is affixed they take it as a guarantee of the quality of the goods. I am glad, however, that it is not the policy of this Bill to countenance boycotting. Senator Keating informs me that manufacturers who employ both union and non-union labour may register a trade mark, showing, if they please, that they do not distinguish between one class of men and another; but simply desire to employ good tradesmen. I trust that such manufacturers will, in time, secure a fair share of support. I do not know whether honorable members have seen this week's Punch. It contains a rather humorous, though somewhat exaggerated, description of what will happen under the union label.

Senator Findley - It is a most unusual thing for. that paper to be humorous.

Senator Pearce - Only a Scotchman could appreciate its humour.

Senator WALKER - I dare say that if the honorable senator will look at it he will either laugh or cry at what he sees. It shows what the tendency will be. If no boycotting occurs under the union label between now and the end of next year, I shall be one of those who are uncharitable enough to think that it has not taken place for fear of the consequences at the next general election.

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