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Wednesday, 14 May 1930


Senator HOARE - When the honorable senator was a member of the Labour party was he opposed to preference to unionists?


Senator OGDEN - Yes, always when I was a member of a union. I believe that no attempt should be made to compel workers to join unions. Surely the benefits of unionism are sufficiently attractive to induce workers to become members of trade unions. When I was Minister in a Labour Government of Tasmania, the unions asked for preference to unionists. At that time, the late Senator Earle was Premier. Mr. Lyons, now the PostmasterGeneral in the Commonwealth Government, was Treasurer, and I was Chief Secretary and Minister for Labour. We were all opposed to giving preference to unionists, and probably Mr. Lyons opposed the request of the unions more vigorously than did any other Minister. At any rate, we unanimously decided not to grant preference. I have always been opposed to the principle.


Senator Rae - How does the regulation ask for a monopoly for the Waterside Workers Federation?


Senator OGDEN - Its objective is to give then an absolute preference to the work on the waterfront. I have no desire to harass the Government unduly. I hope that honorable senators of the Opposition will use their majority mercifully. The other day we did so when \v<; withdrew a motion to disallow another regulation. 'But although we are merciful, we cannot allow a regulation of this sort to go by default when we are honestly convinced that it is not in the interests of the general community. '

Statements are made that very few unionists are employed on the waterfront in Melbourne, but according to the Melbourne Argus of the 3rd May, Mr. Adams, speaking for the ship-owners in an application submitted to Judge Beeby in the Arbitration Court for preference, to unionists on the waterfront, which was turned down, I am glad to say, said -

The employers were not acting with any vindictiveness, but were carrying out pledges given to the volunteers. In Melbourne members of the federation were given all the work on the Holyman steamers, the Patrick, the Broken Hill Proprietary, the Union Company's New Zealand steamers, the Tasmanian vessels, and other small vessels.


Senator Rae - Evidently the volunteers get the pick of the ships.


Senator OGDEN - I do not know about that, but the lines I have mentioned give preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Mr. Adams went on to say : -

They were working the whole of the phosphate vessels. They got a considerable portion of the discharging of timber cargoes. From March 1, 1929, to April 23, 1930, the work had been apportioned as follows: - Volunteers, 05.10, federation members 34.83.

After all, there is not such a bitter discrimination exercised against the unionists and in favour of volunteers who delivered this country from those unjust and unjustifiable strikes which took place at frequent intervals for years. Mr. Adams went on to say: -

The employers, in seeking the aid of volunteers, had not sought to diminish wages or to increase hours. They had given a promise that the award would be observed, and that pledge had been honoured. If necessary, he would ask for an adjournment with a view to placing on affidavit some of the actions of which he complained.

Clearly, more unionists are employed than we are led to believe from the ministerial benches. A return prepared by Mr. Murray Stewart, Registrar of the Arbitration Court, is exceedingly interesting and is worth placing on record. It is as follows :-

Mr. MurrayStewart, the registrar, pursuant to a direction of the Court, made a report upon the number of volunteers employed.

In Brisbane, 1,073 volunteers were working, and of that number, 1,066 were enrolled before October 21, 1928. In Melbourne there were 2,227 volunteers following the occupation, and of that number, 2,068 were enrolled as volunteers and worked on the waterfront before the date, named. Following was a summary: - Adelaide, 506 enrolled before the date, and 79 others; Brisbane, 1,066 before the date, and 7 others; Melbourne 2,068 before the date and 159 others.

As Senator Pearce has already pointed out, in addition to the unionists working at the ports mentioned where the TransportWorkers Act applies, members of the Waterside Workers Federation only are employed in the ports of Tasmania, New South Wales and Western Australia. After all is said and done, waterside workers who have done considerable injury to the general community by a series of useless and unprovoked strikes against constituted law and authority have been very leniently treated.

Honorable senators of the Opposition are opposed to the principle of preference to unionists because it is dangerous at all times to give a monopoly of work to any one section of the community. It is well known that the Waterside Workers Federation is one of the closest corporations that exist in Australia. It has a restricted membership, it does not allow more than a certain number of persons to join. It charges a prohibitive initiation fee - I think it is £10 or £12 - and even then it refuses to allow men to join.


Senator Sir George Pearce - It closes its books.


Senator OGDEN - Yes. Why should this one small section of workers have a right to all the work offering on the public wharfs? The wharfs and the produce that is loaded on the ships belong to the general community, and it is important and urgent that operations on the waterfront should continue without interruption. It would therefore be criminal for this Parliament to allow one section of workers to be in a position to dictate terms, as it did for years, to say what ships should sail and when they should sail and what the charges should be. I trust that I am a good trade unionist. I have fought trade union battles and I would fight them again to-morrow, but I think the first principle to be observed in this country is the right of every man to earn a living for himself and family. Are those who came to the assistance of the country less reputable, less desirable citizens, than many of the men now in the Waterside Workers Federation? If the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) will look through the files in the Department of the Attorney-General, as I have done, he will find statements by reputable leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation showing that there is a distinctly undesirable element in the union. One man says in the report that the better-class members would be glad to get rid of probably 25 per cent. of the Waterside Workers Federation, the percentage that makes all the trouble. We are aware that there is an undesirable section in the ranks of the waterside workers, just as we are all aware that there are many fine citizens among them.

We are a peace-loving community in Tasmania, but many strange things have happened there. The Waterside Workers Federation closes its books. During the apple season there is plenty of work, and good money is earned by the wharf labourers, but unless local workers, who are not members of the federation, have its kind permission, they cannot work on the waterfront during that busy season. Bather than allow the local worker who is not a member of the union to get some of the work that is offering, members of the union from Victoria and New South Wales are encouraged to come to Hobart and work in the holds of the ships.


Senator Thompson - I suppose they work a good deal of overtime.


Senator OGDEN - As much as they can get. They also exercise job control. A few weeks ago, three members of the Waterside Workers Federation were fined for having disobeyed an instruction of an officer given in accordance with the award of the Arbitration Court. I quote the following from a mainland paper







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