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Thursday, 30 November 1905

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The great bulk of our constituents are workers, and it is because we honestly believe that the majority of the workers of Australia will not be benefited by the passing of these provisions that we object to them. Has the union label prevented the occurrence of strikes in America ?

Mr Poynton - Why are all the employers' unions against this proposal?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know ; but even if they are, there is no more reason for saying that the Opposition are the enemies of labour than there is for the statement of the Age that all free-traders are Conservatives. Last session a great fight took place on the question of preference to unionists, and the present Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the VicePresident of the Executive Council, supported our contention that preference should not be granted unless the Court were satisfied that the applicants represented a majority of those affected by the award. They urged then that all worker's should be treated alike. Why have they changed their views? I do not think that any one would accuse the Treasurer of being a great friend of the workers.

Sir John Forrest - I have done more for them than the honorable member has.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The right honorable member for Swan is now being strongly supported by the Labour Party, and may be regarded practically as the Labour representative of Western Aus tralia. Why has he changed his views? The Prime Minister, too, has gone back on the opinions which he once expressed. We should knew the reason for these changes. Perhaps the next we shall hear will be that they have both joined the caucus parry. Honorable members on this side of the Chamber have always shown a readiness tosupport legislation which will benefit the worker. We have passed an arbitration law, which, in my opinion, will do more for labour than the adoption of the proposed trade union label provisions. Of course, every honorable member would like to put an end to all fraudulent dealings with goods.

Mr Fisher - But unless some such provisions as those now before the Committee are passed into law, persons who fraudulently use trade union labels cannot be punished.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Such practices could be prevented without the enactment of theseprovisions. I have always been in favour of unionism, but the action of men in joining unions should be purely voluntary, and the unions, instead of being political organizations, should devote their energies to the improvement of industrial conditions. The clauses which the AttorneyGeneral wishes to insert in the Bill wilt do injustice to the hundreds of thousands of non-unionists in Australia. Why should a factory in which fair rates of wages are paid, and proper conditions of labour observed, be boycotted because it employs others than unionists? It may, be that many of the non-unionists in such a factory have not joined unions because of their political convictions. Such men have been referred to as " blacklegs " ; but no honest worker should be so stigmatized.

Mr Spence - The term is not applied to honest workers.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have heard it so applied in this Chamber, and have deplored its use. I have heard those who will not join unions described as the enemies of labour.

Mr Page - Is it right, where there are two unionists and one non-unionist in a factory, that the non-unionist should reap all the benefits of unionism without paying anything for them?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would the honorable member term enemies of labour the 19,500 non-unionists in a constituency of 20,000 returning a Labour representative? If it were not for the non- unionists, Labour would not enjoy the parliamentary representation which it now has.

Mr Page - We recognise that.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not properly recognised. The clauses which honorable members opposite are supporting will work injustice to the thousands of nonunionists in Australia to whom, largely, they owe their positions. While giving credit to the unions for the work they have accomplished, I contend that the concessions they have won could not have been secured had it not been for the support of the non-unionists. My great desire is that class shall not be set against class, but that capital and labour shall work amicably together. Therefore, I am opposed to any class distinctions of the nature created by the proposals of the Attorney-General. We know what has been the effect of the union label in America, though I shall not occupy time in reading the voluminous evidence with which I could support the statement that that effect has been very bad. In conclusion. I would point out to the Ministry that they would have gained more by showing a little tact last night, and consenting to an adjournment at a reasonable hour, on the promise that the measure would be dealt with before the dinner adjournment on Tuesday next, than they have gained by forcing honorable members to sit all night. I would only remind them of the fortnight's loss of time which ensued from a similar want of fact only recently, when the consideration of the Bill in Committee began.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that we should have a quorum to hear the next speaker. [Quorum formed."]

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