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Thursday, 30 November 1905

Mr FULLER (Illawarra) - It is very, regrettable that we should be still discussing these clauses at this hour. The first question we have to ask is whether there is anything in the circumstances existing in Australia to-day to warrant the introduction of this legislation. The operation of union label provisions in the United States of America has not been so successful as to lead us to introduce them in Australia. The AttorneyGeneral in his very able speech pointed out that union label legislation had been adopted in some forty of the States of the American Union, but I have heard no argument to show that there is any necessity for the introduction of such legislation in Australia at the present time. Since the inauguration of the Commonwealth the various Federal Governments, instead of dealing with, the important matters for which the Federal Parliament was created, have introduced legislation which has caused dissension and dissatisfaction throughout Australia. This is class legislation, and, as such, is sure to cause further dissension. All the precedents quoted by the Attorney-General were American precedents, and the state of affairs existing between employers and employes in that country is not such as to induce us to place our people in a similar position. This is really an attempt to establish trade unions of a political character, and we are justified in opposing it on that ground. I should like to 'hear the Attorney-General on. the constitutionality of the proposal now made, because I have heard very strong opinions expressed, not only by lawyers in this House, but bv lawyers occupying prominent positions in New South Wales, to the effect that these union labour provisions are unconstitutional. I do not know whether the Attorney-General expressed any views in regard to that matter.

Mr Isaacs - Yes, I went into it rather fully.

Mr FULLER - -Then I regret that I missed that part of the honorable and learned gentleman's speech, but I can assume that he looks upon these provisions as constitutional, or he would not be proceeding with them. In my opinion, it is very doubtful whether, under the powers conferred on this Parliament by the Constitution, we have any right to interfere with the industrial legislation of Australia. In dealing with "the American legislation on this subject, it should be borne in mind that it is a matter of common report that bribery and corruption goes on in American Legislatures, and the mere fact that this legislation has been passed bv the Legislatures of forty States of the American Union is not a sufficient reason for adopting it here. It has resulted in America in the introduction and establish ment of a regular system of boycott in trade.

Mr Isaacs - That is not so. The honorable member might, with just as much force, contend that we should abolish trades unions because of the boycotting in America.

Mr FULLER - I say that the adoption of the union label in. America has led, in many instances, to the establishment of boycotting.

Mr Isaacs - I do not know of one case where that has been caused.

Mr FULLER - I am sorry that 1 have mislaid a reference to such a case; but I shall bring it under the notice of the AttorneyGeneral. The honorable and learned gentleman made the point that there has not been one non-unionist in Australia who has raised his voice in opposition to these proposals. That is easily understood when we remember that although non-unionists form by far the largest proportion of the workers of Australia, they are not organized. But if the voice of the individual non-unionist is not heard in opposition to these proposals, many members of this Committee, who represent large bodies of non-unionists, raise their voices in opposition to these clauses on their behalf.

Mr Isaacs - Labour members represent non-unionists in the same way.

Mr FULLER - I am aware that they do, and it is strange that the Government should be forcing this Bill through under the whip of the Labour Party, who are keeping them in power. The AttorneyGeneral has said that in these clauses he is trying to hold the scales evenly between unionists and non-unionists, but I think that the honorable and learned gentleman has failed to do so. It is to my mind a matter for extreme regret that members of the Ministry, who are notoriously in opposition to legislation of this character, should be prepared to sink their strong convictions and assist the Attorney-General in carrying it. How they can. reconcile their consciences in this matter, I am unable to say. If I thought that legislation of this character was necessary, that industrial conditions in Australia warranted its introduction, that it would benefit the workers, that it would not set class against class, would not establish an industrial boycott in Australia- and would insure the manufacture of goods under proper conditions, I should be disposed to support it. But I believe that it will not do what is claimed for it, and that it will bring about the evils which have been suggested. These union label clauses are an excrescence upon a Trade Marks Bill; they should never havebeen introduced into such a measure. They have been so introduced under pressure, and the Government are resorting to pressure to have them passed. The Prime Minister said al few days ago, "The task must be done," and it appears that this is part of the task to which the honorable and learned gentleman referred. I need only add that I shall be prepared to resist the passing of the clauses proposed by the Attorney-General as strongly as I possibly can.

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