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Thursday, 11 June 1931


Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - Honorable senators opposite are continually decrying what they describe as class hatred, hut it seems to me that they themselves manifest that class hatred in their attitude towards unionism. I am one of those who, while not preaching class hatred, believe in the class struggle as the very basis of the Labour movement. There are two bodies of men on the wharfs at the present time, the unionists, and those who are euphemistically styled volunteers.


Senator Thompson - They are also unionists.


Senator RAE - Tes, of a sort. The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat spoke of these volunteers coming to the rescue of their country, as though they were heroes who sacrificed their own interests for the sake of their country. Honorable senators must know that these so-called volunteers were mighty glad to get the jobs which were formerly not open to them, largely owing to their inferiority, either of physique or skill. The general testimony of expert observers and investigators, such as sociologists, as well as of those directly concerned with industry, is to the effect that, on the whole, the best workers in every occupation are unionists. Ever since the inauguration of trade unionism, the tendency has been for the best men in various occupations to join their organization, by which, alone, experience has sho wn that they can obtain a modicum of justice under the existing capitalistic system. There can be no stronger indictment of the system which honorable senators support than is provided by the fact that, if the system had any economic stability about it, there would be no quarrel between the unionists and the volunteers, because there would be work for all. But unemployment, which is the root cause of industrial troubles, is not only the inevitable product of the system under which we live, but is also necessary to its maintenance. It is the keystone of the capitalistic system, and so long as unemployment continues, so long will there be a class struggle between those who serve the bosses' ends and those banded together to look after the interests of the workers.

Although members of the "Waterside Workers Federation must be more or less degraded by the system under which they are compelled to toil, and therefore make blunders, is that a sufficient reason why they should be condemned as though they were arch criminals, and subjected to the venomous comments which are showered on them every time these regulations are debated? Are honorable senators opposite so free from guile that they should be hurling gibes at these men everlastingly, because, on some particular occasion, they may have done something detrimental to the employers' interests. There is something fundamentally wrong, when, in a country teeming with opportunities-


The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon W Kingsmill - I think that the honorable senator is straying from the subject before the Chair.


Senator RAE - I regret that you restrain me, Mr. President, but I think that one should have an opportunity of pointing out that there is a deeper cause of these industrial troubles than the merely superficial one generally given.


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator's remarks would be more appropriate on an abstract motion.


Senator RAE - I bow to your ruling. I have no intention whatever to ask honorable senators to do other than what I know they will do - that is, vote for the disallowance of these regulations. Any such pleading would be in vain, but 1 desire to place on record my opinion that trouble of the kind on which honorable senators opposite take one view, and we on this aide take the other, will continue until we alter the system that produces these results. If the Ministry is to be true to its name as a Labour Government, it is its bounden duty to take every opportunity to further the interests of trade unionists.


Senator R D ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - With equality of opportunity for all trade unionists.


Senator RAE - That is impossible under the present system. The so-called volunteer workers belong to a bogus organization that was formed for the purpose of serving the interests of the shipping employers. To that extent those workers are traitors to their own class, and we must necessarily fight them. In loyalty to the working class, we must take every opportunity of helping the organization through which, alone, the workers may receive but a modicum of justice. Were it not for trade unionism, the working class would be the most brutalized section of the human race. Unionism has done more than any other influence to raise the white workers of the world.


Senator Guthrie - And the awards of the Arbitration Courts should be obeyed.


Senator RAE - Arbitration has been kept within decent limits only by the fact that men were game to strike when their conditions became intolerable. All human experience proves that unionism, with , -all its defects, which I admit and regret, has done more than anything else to secure for the working classes a share of the wealth that they produce, and, consequently, I must back up any Government in any action it takes to help the organized working class. Therefore, I shall vote against the motion before the Senate. I hope that the Government will continue to re-enact these regulations, if necessary " to the Greek calends ". If it comes to a matter of endurance, I think that the members on this side will outlast those in the ranks of the Opposition.







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