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Tuesday, 5 December 1905
Page: 6202

Mr PAGE - Would not the honorable member give a trade union the same protection as any other manufacturer?

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I certainly would, and I should go a little further than the honorable member for Maranoa in protecting the workers. I am prepared to give them practical protection, and not merely to stand up here and on platforms outside to talk of what I intend to do. I am afraid that honorable members opposite do not desire to see peace and contentment between employers and workers, as, if such a state of affairs were brought about, the occupation of half of our members would be gone. I am sure we should miss them very much. The trade union label has never been asked for by any one but labour members and trade unionists. The electors have never had an opportunity to say whether they want it, and I desire that they should be given a say in the matter. I would suggest to the Government that they should dissolve Parliament, and put this question before the country.

Mr Page - What a horrible suggestion !

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I am aware that honorable members opposite do not desire to go before the country. I notice that one of the members of the Government, in speaking the other day at Wagga, said that he was not quite prepared to go out of office just then. That we can all believe.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the honorable member referring to the Vice-President of the Executive Council?

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - No - to a bigger man. I consider that anything in the form of a trade union label will be most injurious to the interests of working people generally. It will be found injurious to the trade, commerce, and manufacturing industries of the whole of the Commonwealth, and, holding that view, I intend to oppose the passing of these provisions into law as much as I possibly can. I realize that the Government, with their friends in the corner, have the numbers, but I think I am justified in saying that some members of the Government, and some of their supporters also, would very gladly vote with the Opposition against this proposal. The object with which these provisions have been introduced is simply to secure such a preference for unionists as was proposed in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The great object is to force nonunionists to join the unionists, so as to form a great and powerful political machine with which to control the elections. Let me inform honorable members of what a labour member of the Queensland Parliament said only a week ago at Bundaberg. I quote the following statement : -

Mr. Bowmandelivered a great and rallying address, urging the workers to organize, and be the real masters of the political situation.

Mr Watson - So they should be.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - The honorable gentleman admits that that is the real object ?

Mr Watson - Who else but the workers should be the masters; not the loafers, surely ?

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I hope that honorable members opposite will not misunderstand me. I recognise that they are just as honest in the expression of their opinions as I am in the expression of mine.

Mr Page - Why these class distinctions ?

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - There are labour class distinctions, and honorable members desire to set up an aristocracy of labour.

Mr Page - Does not the honorable member wish that he belonged to it?

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - If the honorable member for Maranoa had been here as long as I have been he would know thatI have done my share of practical labour, and without talking very much about it. Mr. Bowman continued -

Some of those elected on the Labour platform now wanted to think and act for themselves, over the heads of the organizations which returned them ; but the Labour members must be made to recognise that they were not their own agents, but the agents of the organizations. If they sought to flout their pledges, they should be promptly punished. He would willingly do his best to drive out of political existence such representatives as betrayed their trust.

That is what we have to expect from the organizations outside Parliament. They are the masters of the situation, and those whom they return to this Chamber are their delegates. I hope that the time will never come when we shall have no representatives of labour-

Mr Tudor - What proportion would the honorable member allow ?

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I would allow a fair representation of labour. If the legalization of the union label is a matter of so much importance to the trade unions and the workers generally, why do not honorable members provide for it in a separate Bill, so that the subject may be discussed on its merits instead of being dealt with in what I can term only an underhand way, by being tacked on to another measure ?

Mr Hutchison - Would the honorable member support the proposal if it were provided for in a separate Bill ?

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