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Wednesday, 26 September 1906

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) . - I defy Senator Neild orany other member of the Senate to read the speech I made in moving the adjournment on a previous occasion, and say that, on my own responsibility, I made any charges whatever against the company? I was careful to point out that I was putting before the Senate the case submitted to me, and all J asked was that the Government should look into the matter and say whether they thought the case was one in connexion with which a prosecution or an inquiry should follow, because of the alleged discharge of an employe on account of the evidence he had given before a Royal Commission. So far as. the case now stands, I say that I have not in the Senate or outside of it endeavoured in any way to block an inquiry. On the other hand, I have repeatedly asked the Government if they would take action in . the matter, and, as honorable senators must be aware from the replies I have received, I was told in each case that the Government had not yet come to a decision on the matter. I am in no way responsible for that. As regards the statements which have been made here by Senator Neild this morning, I wish te say that if Mr. Shaw was anxious for an inquiry into this matter, it must be admitted that he wanted an inquiry of his own making, because both Mr. Shaw and Mr. Weeks attended the sitting of the Commission when Stone made his statement, and they had an opportunity of being recalled if they wished, and' of replying to the statements made by Stone.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator knows that at that time the matter had not assumed a serious aspect.

Senator PEARCE - It has assumed as serious an aspect as it wears to-day, because the question raised was as to the relative superiority of male and female labour in a particular department. I take it that the object of Stone's evidence was to show that it was not a fair test. It was given within the hearing of Mr. Weeks and Mr. Shaw, and,' in order to prove that they did realize its importance from their point of view, let me point out that the brief, which evidently has been made out by the company, and which Senator Neild has been quoting, contains a statement that after thev left the room thev "had an altercation with Mr. Stone in the passage. He returned to the room and said to me - " I have been intimidated." I said - "The Commission has ended its sitting for to-day. If you have been in timidated you must come up and make your complaint to-morrow morning when we resume." Mr. Shaw and Mr. Weeks could have been called then had they wished to bring evidence in rebuttal, but they did not ask to be called for the purpose. At the following meeting, however, Mr. Shaw asked me to call, in Melbourne, Mr. Wilkins, the managing superintendent of both the Sydney and Melbourne factories, and I agreed to do so. It is very significant that, although in his evidence Mr. Wilkins actually referred to Mr. Stone, yet he gave no rebutting evidence. Speaking about the question of wages in his evidence, Mr. Wilkins said - 7364. BySenator Gray. - Those are the wages under exceptional conditions? - Yes. I gave them the option of going off the " twist " in order that they might fill in their time by wrapping flat tobacco. Some of the men took advantage of that, and' others did not. 7365. I asked Mr. Stone, when he was giving evidence in Sydney, whether the reason, why the women were put on in place of men in connexion with covering was not because Dixson's asked the permission of the union to be allowed to employ a certain number of apprentices, and the union declined te do so. Mr. Stone said that no such request was made? - I understood that Dixson's did apply at that time through the union for more men (flat coverers we call them, the others we call twisters). The union had no more men, as we had absorbed them in the factory, and then something was said about apprentices, but they would not allow that. Therefore we had to put on women. That was the first introduction of women into the Sydney factory.

Senator Millen - Has this any .bearing on the question of intimidation?

Senator PEARCE - I intend to put my case in my own way. I am showing that the company had ample opportunity, if it wished, to get an inquiry into that special subject. It was not pursued. Although a subsequent witness was put up to reply to Mr. Stone, yet it was not referred to. The matter was again raised before the Arbitration Court, where Mr. Stone, in addition to repeating his evidence before the Royal Commission, produced two sworn declarations, .which may be seen on page 499 of Hansard of this session. If the company were concerned about the charges, why did it not then bring evidence to rebut them in a Court which consisted of a Judge, with an employers' representative and an employe's' representative. Surely that was a fair tribunal !

Senator Millen - The question of intimidation never came before that Court.

Senator PEARCE - I am pointing out the strange desire for an inquiry which was developed subsequently. Although all the material for a fair inquiry was then available, yet the question was not raised. But Mr. Shaw wanted an inquiry of his own making. He wished to induce Mr. Stone to make the same statements in a different position, and Mr. Shaw negotiated with Mr. Stone and the union over the matter. The Royal Commission was not consulted as to an inquiry. In Melbourne, just before the hour of meeting, Mr. Stone came to me and said - "The company is asking for an inquiry of its own making. What would you do if you were in my position ?". " Well," I said, " you have made your statement before the Royal Commission, and repeated it before the' Arbitration Court. If it is untrue an action will lie against you for perjury. The company did not ask for an inquiry before the Royal Commission or the Arbitration Court. It might have said that the former is a political tribunal, but it could not make that statement regarding the latter. It was not prepared to take up an inquiry before the Arbitration Court, and, were I in your position, I would not submit to any inquiry. It is a matter for yourself. I do not make this statement to you as Chairman of the Commission." That is all that transpired. So much for the advice of the Royal Commission. The question of intimidation arises in this way : that the company could have had an impartial inquiry if it had been required before the' Arbitration Court, if it thought that the Royal Commission was not an impartial body. The same charge, backed up by sworn declarations, was made by Mr. Stone before that Court, as Mr. Shaw admits in his letters. But the company did not avail itself of that opportunity.

Senator Col Neild - There is no intimidation in all this.

Senator PEARCE - Because this witness, acting on the advice of his union, would not agree to the special inquiry which was desired, he was discharged. That is where the intimidation came in.

Senator Col Neild - No. He was discharged simply because he would neither withdraw nor prove his statement, and quite rightly too.

Senator PEARCE - On the 18th June, Mr. Stone received from Mr. Shaw, man aging director of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, the following letter : -

Dear Sir, - Having failed to conform to our request, as again stated in our letter to you of 9th inst., and to which letter you have not even replied, there remains now no other course open to us than to inform you that your services are no longer required, and you will please accept this notice as your discharge from the factory.

Your work will be weighed off to lunch time to-day.

W.   G. Shaw,

Managing Director.

That is, that he would not submit the matter to the inquiry which Mr. Shaw desired.

Senator Col Neild - No ; that he would not withdraw nor support his statement.

Senator PEARCE - He was discharged because he would not submit to their form of inquiry nor withdraw his charge.

Senator Millen - The question before the Senate is the alleged intimidation. That never was or never could have been brought before the Arbitration Court.

Senator PEARCE - There could be no intimidation when Mr. Stone was still employed by the company. The act of intimidation was in discharging him because he would not agree to the inquiry which Mr. Shaw wanted.

Senator Millen - That is not the question before the Senate.

Senator PEARCE - The question of the inquiry is bound up with the charge which Mr. Stone made before the Royal Commission, and which he supported' before the Arbitration "Court with sworn declarations..

Senator Col Neild - No; he did not produce them. He backed down, and said that it was hearsay.

The PRESIDENT - I would point out to the honorable senator that it is not regular to refer to former debates of the same session.

Senator PEARCE - I am only referring to a letter from Mr. Shaw to Mr. Stone.

The PRESIDENT - Of course, the honorable senator can read a letter wherever he gets it.

Senator PEARCE - A letter dated 7th June, from Mr. Shaw to Mr. Stone, contains this paragraph -

You did, at the Arbitration Court, repeat the charge originally made before the Royal Commission, and this time went so far as to mention names in support of your evidence, but beyond your own bald statement no witness was called, nor evidence whatever produced.

The names given were those of men who Mr. Stone said were in the employ of the company when the unfairness alleged took place, and whom it could still produce. Why did it not produce Mr. Chamberlain, whose name we hear for the first time to-day, before the Arbitration Court to show that he had not seen the thing done?

Senator Col Neild - Because the company did not know anything about his knowledge.

Senator PEARCE - Does the company allege that the Arbitration Court is not a fair tribunal?

Senator Millen - To hear a charge of intimidation ?

Senator PEARCE - No; to hear a charge of mixing leaf.

Senator Millen - What did the honorable senator bring before the Senate - a charge of intimidation, or a charge of mixing the leaf?

Senator PEARCE - Mr. Shaw has not asked for an inquiry as regards mixing the leaf.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator has, but the Ministry will not grant an inquiry.

Senator PEARCE - Yes.

Senator Millen - That is the complaint to-day.

Senator PEARCE - The complaint is made that this matter should not have been brought forward, because Mr. Stone would not submit himself to an inquiry.

Senator Col Neild - That is not the fact at all.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator said that it should not have been mentioned.

Senator Col Neild - I have said nothing of the kind, and I object to this infamous misrepresentation.

The PRESIDENT - Order.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator tried to place Mr. Stone in an unfair position, by alleging that he would not submit to a fair inquiry, meaning that he would not submit to the inquiry which Mr. Shaw wanted.

Senator Col Neild - This is really too disgraceful.

The PRESIDENT - I must have order. Senator Neild has the right of reply.

Senator PEARCE - Senator Neild has so large a vocabulary that I expect to hear such interjections from him. The charges which he has made against Mr. Stone are not warranted.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator's time has expired.

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