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Wednesday, 20 May 1931

Senator SIR GEORGE PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The Attorney-General continued -

There is more than 100 per cent, excess labour clamouring for employment at the waterside.'

That is due not to the regulations under the Transport Workers Act but to other causes for which the Government must take its share of the responsibility. The Attorney-General continued - 111 feeling of a dangerous kind has been engendered by the indefinite continuance of what is almost a boycott against the Waterside Workers Federation. That feeling has been allayed largely by the regulation which gives preference in employment to returned soldiers and members of the federation.

That is a half truth because preference is only given to returned soldiers who are members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Preference is not given to returned soldiers generally. I remind the Senate of the figures which I quoted on a previous occasion showing that there are as many returned soldiers amongst the volunteers as there are in the Waterside Workers Federation

Senator Sampson - Are not the volunteers unionists?

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - I am coming to that. The Attorney-General went on to speak about the question of preference to unionists but there is no question of preference to unionists at issue here. The volunteers are also unionists - they are members of a registered union. But the difference between the two unions is that the members of one union ever since its formation and registration have adhered to and loyally abided by the award of the Arbitration Court whereas the members of the other union to which the Government is proposing to give preference has openly, repeatedly and defiantly flouted, the Arbitration Court and treated its awards and findings with contempt. The AttorneyGeneral continued -

Has the Senate nothing better to do than to assemble again and again merely for the purpose of disallowingthem.

If the Senate has nothing better to do it is because the Government does not find us anything better to do. We have something of importance to do in this regard, because we are carrying out the promise made to these volunteer workers in the name of the people of Australia. We told them that if they came to the rescue of the people by carrying out the transport work of the country, employment would be found for them whenever practicable. We gave an unmistakeable pledge that they would not be victimized when the strike was over. The AttorneyGeneral went on to say -

If its policy is one of blank negation and opposition it will have much to answer for, should the evil tendencies which the Ministry is endeavouring to restrain burst their bounds and cause incalculable injury to the nation's shipping and to the interests of the working classes.

I do not know whether that is intended as a threat; but if it is it leaves me absolutely unmoved. I am confident that the Governments of the States who are responsible for the maintenance of law and order will see that law and order are observed. I have no fear that any instigation to disorder is likely to come from the volunteers. They have always shown themselves to be lawabiding men. They have never broken the law but have worked in conformity with it. Therefore, if that warning needs to be addressed to anybody it should be addressed to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I propose to read the statutory rule, No. 53 of 1931 -

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