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Friday, 31 October 1913

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) . - I cannot allow the remarks of Senator Rae to pass. Before getting any information he has already prejudged the case. As I was the Minister under whose auspices the institution was started, and the greater number of the men put on, I say that his statements are absolutely wrong and grossly unfair. He has accepted "tittle-tattle" from somebody.

Senator Rae - From a good labour man.

Senator PEARCE - I think that I could place the man in one who was refused employment at the factory, and who has circularized the unions of New South Wales, making statements which are absolutely false.

Senator Rae - I do not know the man whom you refer to. It was one of the State members who told me.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator's statement bears such a close resemblance to the statement circulated by that man that I am pretty sure that he is the source from which it came.

Senator Rae - It was one of the State members who told me.

Senator PEARCE - He probably gave the information to the honorable senator as the result of representations made by the man who was refused employment, and at once set on foot an agitation that he was rejected because he was a trade unionist. He was not rejected for anything of that kind, and he has made statements regarding the union there. The late Government intimated to the management of the factory as well as to other managers that he was to adopt the principle of preference to unionists in securing his employes, and he did. Over 75 per cent. of the men employed there were at the time of their joining members of various unions throughout the State. But certain unionists in Lithgow, because the men coming from other States did not happen to be members of the local union, objected to their getting employment. I instituted inquiries, and found that the men were unionists, but did not happen to belong to the Lithgow union. The man who was refused employment at the factory was secretary to one of the Lithgow unions, and he insisted that these men should be compelled to join the Lithgow union. I refused to be a party to anything of the kind. I said that so long as the manager was satisfied that the men belonged to a union that was all that I desired. After the staff was collected the men naturally desired to have a union of their own, because this is the only industry of the kind in Australia. They formed a union to which, I believe, over 90 per cent. of the employes of the factory now belong. To say that it is a bogus union is to reflect on the. unionists who came from every part of Australia, and who were genuine members of trade unions when they got employment.

Senator Needham - How many of them are there ?

Senator PEARCE - I cannot say offhand. Not only is that so, but the factory union is affiliated with the Eight Hours' Demonstration Committee at Lithgow. It is a reflection on the unionists of Lithgow if they have allowed a blackleg union, as Senator Rae would call it, to . be affiliated with them. I am in a position to say that the rule of preference to unionists, which was enforced by the late Government, was observed by the manager, so far as he was able to do so:

In a number of cases he had to get in certain specialists who did not happen to be unionists, and there, of course, the rule did not apply. There is justification for a union of men employed in the factory, because it is the only factory of the kind in Australia, aud is distinct from all factories in the iron-work trade. It is registered in New South Wales as a genuine trade union, is affiliated with the Eight Hours' Demonstration Committee at Lithgow, and takes its part in all 11111011 matters in the State. It is unfortunate that a member of the Senate has made these statements when, if he had inquired of me, he could have learned that they were inaccurate, and set on foot by a man whose animus is attributable to the fact that he was refused employment at the factory.

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