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Tuesday, 5 December 1905
Page: 6214

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - The honorable member who has just sat down has assumed that the trade union label will be beneficial to trade unionists. I wish to show him that he has made a mistake. In a previous speech I have shown that legislation of this character is not new. There were similar laws in force in Egypt and in Assyria 5,000 years ago, and in England 500 or 600 years ago. I venture to say that even the bricks in this building were made in accordance with a law passed in England 140 years ago, or thereabouts, prescribing their size and shape. But suppose it were possible by means of this Bill or by coercion to force every workman in a certain trade into the trade union, whether he liked it or not. The effect would simply be that the union would be far worse off than it is to-day, because it would have more unemployed on its books and making demands upon its funds. If the unions of this country were made to include eleven times as many workmen as are in them to-day, the advantage that the few who do belong to unions to-day derive from that fact would be lost to them. I say at once that if the object were simply to enable a body of men who had become incorporated to register a mark so that no one else might use it, and then to make arrangements with employers for affixing that mark to goods, I should have no objection to it.

Mr Watkins - Is not that all that is intended ?

Mr CONROY - Unfortunately, the proposals before us go a great deal further. These clauses omit the safeguards that should pertain to such provisions. Surely if we say that a mark may be used in such a way as to set class against class, it is our duty to impose reasonable safeguards. If a law passed by this Parliament were to declare, for instance, that Presbyterians or Roman Catholics or Anglicans might work together and register a mark for the purpose of increasing religious dissensions, it would be our duty to provide a safeguard in order that such sectarian combinations might not inflict injury upon the rest of the public. The moment provision is made for a mark to be so used by a class that injury may be done to some other class in the community, that moment it is necessary to safeguard its use, and to make sure that it shall not be employed outside the scope for which it was originally intended. I am sorry to say that as these clauses stand at present, they do go beyond legitimate bounds. Consequently, I am put in this position - that I have either to vote against the clauses as a whole, or to ask that they shall be safeguarded in such a way as will permit me to vote for them. Personally, I think that a great deal too much is being made of the whole question. I do not understand why the Labour Party should fight for these provisions as though they regarded them as the supreme end of labour legislation. It appears to me that they are almost useless for the purposes for which they are in- tended. They would be useful from the Labour Party's point of view, if they were to be used merely as a means towards a certain end. But it is denied that the end to which I allude is held in view by honorable members opposite. Of course, it must be understood that if trade unions are to use trade marks of this description, they will have to take all the consequences, and will have to fight for them if their rights are challenged. The unions may be plunged into contests that will not be advantageous to themselves, and will merely have the effect of exhausting their funds. I pointed out, when we were discussing the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, how a similar result might accrue. Honorable members opposite have now had a few years' experience of what has taken place under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in New South Wales, and are aware that what I said has come true. I have no hesitation in saying that to carry these clauses as they stand is against' the interests of the unionists themselves. It would have been very much better, from their point of view, if a separate measure had been introduced to deal with the subject. I am rather doubtful as to the constitutionality of the clauses.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable and learned member for Illawarra said that in Svdney he had heard opinions upon both sides.

Mr CONROY - I do not feel inclined to speak too positively on the point. Perhaps owing to an oversight on the part of the Convention, we have no power to deal with the matter. But recognising that power, for the sake of argument, still think the clauses go beyond what they ought to do. It is general I v conceded that the object of legislation to-day should be to break down any barriers that may exist between the classes - to abolish any differentiation between the work of one man and that of another. The interests of all men ought to be equally dear to the Legislature. It is only by legislating on that principle that any true progress can be made. To put forward any particular class, whether it be a manufacturing class, a farming class, or a labouring class, as- being entitled to legislative rights, seems to me to be directly contrary to the objects of sound legislation. We should do all we can to break down the disadvantages that arise from past mistakes, which very often are still continued by custom long after the legislation embodying them has ceased to operate. I shall not dwell further on tha,t aspect of the question at the present time, but I do say that the main object of our legislation should be to prevent as far as possible any differentiation between one citizen and another, and certainly distinctions between one class of citizens and another.

Mr Bamford - To give employers a free hand?

Mr CONROY - No, the honorable member is making a mistake. We should not allow conditions to continue which enable one class to gain at the expense of another. To do so is just as much class legislation as if we passed bills specifically intended to bring about such a result. When certain proposals were brought forward in this Parliament, by which one or two individuals who happened to have money, and to have put it into particular industries would be advantaged the honorable member for Herbert never for a moment took into consideration how many persons would be disadvantaged by the carrying of such proposals.

Mr Bamford - Yes I did.

Mr CONROY - I am sorry to say that the' honorable member, in common with many other honorable members, did not, and it would have been well if honorable members generally had then been guided by the simple principle that Parliament is not here to set up any one class against another, and that it is here to pull down, as far as possible, all such bad legislation. I repeat, that we should not permit legislation to continue in force that allows of such differentiations as I have referred to. We have no unknown fund on which to draw ; we can use only the funds that have been created by the labour of our_ fellowcitizens, and to direct them exclusively towards any one class of the community is an evil.

Mr Webster - How would the honorable member restrict abuses?

Mr CONROY - We should abolish them as far as possible. We should be most careful in the work of legislation to pass measures which will prevent and remedy them.

Mr Webster - That is what we are trying to do.

Mr CONROY - No, unfortunately, honorable members are here going al together beyond that. The whole history of the past has shown that we cannot set up special privileges for any class in the community, however worthy it may be, without bringing serious evils into existence. Though in this case one class may think that what is proposed will be to its advantage, it will be found that it will1 not be so. The true interests of the great mass of the people lies in the abolition of all class privileges. When we begin more thoroughly to realize that, and to see what those privileges are, we shall find that most of them are of our own creation, and that many, indeed, have been created by this Parliament.

Mr Webster - They are the creation of honorable members opposite.

Mr CONROY - I refer to the creation of privileges for one class, and the means by which they are singled out for special benefits. It often turns out that the class sought to be benefited is not benefited, whilst such legislation is always injurious to the rest of the community. The rule we should adopt is to do away as far as possible with all special privileges. We should abolish those already existing, we should favour no class, and we should certainly not entertain any legislation conferring new privileges.

Mr Ronald - Would the honorable member permit every quack to practise as a doctor? ,

Mr CONROY - Does the honorable member suggest that because I say we should not differentiate between one class and another, I am therefore contending that we should allow imposture, roguery, and fraud ? I am afraid that honorable members opposite have not understood a single word I have said. The abolition of the privileges enjoyed by a particular class does not mean that we should allow another class to retain special privileges. If there are classes who derive gain by means of false trade marks, that must be put down. If there are classes who derive gain by false statements, that must also be put down, just as we put down false pretences by imprisoning those who, bv means of ' those pretences, cheat their fellow-citizens out of something that is their own.

Mr Ronald - That is exactly the purpose of this measure.

Mr CONROY - I wish it were so, but these proposals go far beyond that. If that were the object of these clauses, I should be in absolute sympathy with the honorable member, and should be found voting for them. I should be prepared, to go even further, and permit their application, not to one class, but to 150 different associations, if there were so many. The mere fact that they had taken their mark, and registered it, should be in my eyes sufficient protection. I say that our common law goes as far as that. I do not know how in Western Australia there can be any doubt on the subject.

Mr Webster - That is quite a common thing when lawyers give advice.

Mr CONROY - If it is, it needs remedying.

Mr Webster - There is no remedy for it.

Mr CONROY - We might set aside the whole of these provisions, and propose one clause to the effect that whoever counterfeits the trade mark, label, or any other mark used by another in his business shall be liable to whatever penalty we think adequate.

Mr Webster - That is what we are doing.

Mr CONROY - No; what is proposed is to go far beyond that. One short clause would be sufficient to secure what some honorable members opposite desire.

Mr Webster - - The honorable member differs from us as to method, but not as to principle.

Mr CONROY - I differ also as to principle, because the proposal here is to go far beyond the mere punishment of counterfeiting a trade mark or label. If honorable members on the other side, even at this late stage, assert that that is all they wish, the Attorney-General could inform them that he might set aside the whole of this part of the Bill, and introduce in place of it one clause which would secure absolutely what some honorable members opposite now appear to aim at, and what the honorable member for Bland has said he aimed at, though I am afraid the honorable gentleman has gone very much beyond that in his speeches. Viewing these clauses as a whole, I am compelled to vote against them. I regret that they go beyond what can fairly be introduced into a Trade Marks Bill. No one should have the right by any colourable imitation of another man's trade mark, label, or signature, to set forth' to the public that his goods are something which they are not. I am one of those who are very sorry that we do not allow the policing of the whole of these provisions by a cheap method of prosecution at law, by making the person selling liable. That would be a very much more effectual bar than any we have now, or are ever likely to have while we continue the present system. The expense of law is so great that we practically deny to the whole of the workers any safeguard whatever. We have made no attempt to deal with these matters in this Bill, and it will still be left to the workers to fight out their difficulties and troubles in the Courts, and in that way a great many hundreds of pounds of their funds will be wasted. It surely cannot be said to be good for unionism that the funds of unions should be liable to be dissipated in that way. Because of the manner in which these clauses are drawn, I have no option but to vote against' them, while, at the same time, I regret that the object sought by honorable members on both sides has not been met in a temperate way, that is by the introduction of two or three clauses which would have been quite sufficient to deal with the difficulty suggested by honorable members in the Labour corner.

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