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Wednesday, 27 May 1931

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I am at a loss to understand why the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) should have referred to the alleged reports of a caucus meeting of the Labour party. I cannot see in what way the motion to which he alluded is relevant to the question at issue. The right honorable gentleman admitted that, according to the published reports of the meeting, there were only five supporters for the proposal which I submitted.

Senator Sir George Pearce - There were only five supporters then.

SenatorRAE. - Surely that clears the Government of any charge of having favoured the proposal that I put forward.

Senator Sir George Pearce - It has now come round to the honorable senator's point of view.

SenatorRAE. - There is not the slightest comparison between what the Government is now seeking to do by regulation and what I suggested that it should do as a matter of national emergency. I did not for a moment suggest the adoption of any pettifogging method of imposing its will; I proposed practically a new form of government in Australia to meet an emergency that existed.

Senator Colebatchhas appealed to the Senate to consider this matter from a constitutional point of view, rather than in the direction of any effect that it might have on the waterside workers themselves, I point out, however, that there is a further consideration. The members of another place, who are responsible for the existence of the Government which has made this regulation, have come from the people far more recently than have a majority of the members of this chamber, and consequently can claim to represent more fairly recent public opinion. Honorable senators opposite, who belong to a past political age, still linger on the stage because the people have no power to remove them. Therefore, the Government is compelled to adopt methods that would not be applicable ordinarily to the conduct of the business of the country.

It has been stated that under a decision of the Arbitration Court the Government has no right to give preference in employment to trade unionists. That court has not ruled that preference shall be given to non-unionists; yet that is the immediate effect of the disallowance of these regulations.

Senator Sir George Pearce - No.

Senator RAE - In seeking, however ineffectively, to fulfil the wishes of the people of this country towards trade unionism, the Government is using whatever measures lie to its hands. I do not defend some of the methods that are adopted by the Government to give effect to the policy of the Labour party. If it acted as tenaciously and consistently in regard to all matters as it has done with respect to this, it would have a greater measure of my approval. What is involved in the disallowance of these regulations? Immediately they are disallowed, trade unionists are denied employment on the waterfront and the shipowners select what are euphemistically described as volunteers, but what I term " scabs ". It is this attempt by honorable senators opposite to smash tradeunionism that is responsible for the Government using any means at its disposal to thwart their nefarious designs.

The statement that no regulation is broken may be regarded as a quibble; but as a matter of fact when these regulations are disallowed they cease to operate and the Government does not seek to enforce them. A hymn that I learned in my youth laid it down that -

And while the lamp holds out to burn,

The vilest sinner may return.

Even this Senate may, by persistent effort, at last become sufficiently civilized to accept these regulations.

The perseverance of the Government meets with the approval of all who admire those who stick to their guns. I hope that, eventually, it will succeed in wearing down the ignorant and reactionary members of the Opposition who are seeking to destroy trade unionism.

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