How Labour Governs. Vere Gordon Childe 1923
IN our first chapter we saw that the Labour Party was the creation of the Trade Union Movement. The first Labour platform was drafted in N.S.W. by a committee of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council; that in Queensland by the A.L.F. Convention. But unionist votes alone were not then sufficient, even were all unionists solidly behind the Labour Party (as they were not) to secure the return of Labour members. On the other hand, there were many people outside the ranks of unionism who sympathised with the ideals of Labour and were prepared to support the political movement. To cater for these as well as to serve as organising centres, the electoral leagues were organised which any one in sympathy with the aims of the Party might join. These bodies owed their foundation to organisers sent out by the Labour Council or the A.L.F. In Queensland the Conference which framed Labour's platform consisted exclusively of delegates from the electoral leagues (W.P.O.'s), and in the N.S.W. Conference they had a preponderating vote, although the unions had separate representation. But by this means persons participated in the formulation of Labour policy who were not necessarily wage-earners and were therefore not always in agreement with the peculiar aims of the working class. The league membership would include small farmers, little shopkeepers, professional men, and political adventurers. The farmers and Petit-bourgeoisie, as employers of labour, had often different interests from those of the industrial proletariat–e.g., in the case of a strike. There are thus the seeds of an internal conflict within the Movement from the first, and the two sections within the Party have always watched each other jealously.
In N.S.W. a contest soon developed between these sections as to their share in the control of the Movement. The Executive had at first consisted of the officers of the Labour Council. But the second Conference of the Party proposed to limit the representation of the Council on the Executive to three members. It was argued that the functions of the two organisations were different; the sphere of the Labour Council was the relations of employer and employed; that of the Political Labour Party social reform. The Council, as the parent of an organisation founded by and for the wage-earners, objected to handing over its control to persons who were not exclusively of that class. Yet they had to compromise. The President of the Council became ex-officio chairman of the Executive of the Political League, and the Council was granted six representatives on the latter body.
In 1894 the Labour Council decided to put in force the scheme for an Australian Labour Federation, which aimed at the amalgamation of the political and industrial sides of the Movement. But the representatives of the leagues would not agree at the 1895 Conference to being merged in the union federation. A sort of compromise was arrived at by which the two bodies were co-ordinated under the name of the Political Labour League which was now used for the first time. The league was to consist of
(1) “All unions affiliated to the Eastern Provincial Council of the A.L.F. and contributing to the funds of the P.L.L.
(2)” Members of other unions with whom special arrangements have been made by the local district associations or an unattached electoral branch.
(3)” Other adult residents who shall have subscribed to the platform and constitution of the organisation.”
The Executive consisted of two officers and seven delegates elected by Conference, together with two delegates from the A.L.F. All members of the Parliamentary Party had the right to attend, but their voting power was limited to five votes. In 1899 the A.L.F. handed over its industrial functions to the Labour Council, and dissolved. The Labour Party Conference now consisted of one delegate from each of the leagues and the affiliated unions. All the Executive was now elected by Conference except for two delegates each, appointed by the Labour members in the Assembly and Council respectively.
In 1904 the unions secured an alteration in the basis of representation at Conference that gave them a more proportionate weight in its deliberations. Under the old system a little league, which might easily have only fifty nominal members, would have the same voting strength as a union with a thousand. The new system was as follows:
For 1 to 200 members, 1 delegate.
For 201 to 500 members, 2 delegates.
For 501 to 1,000 members, 3 delegates
more than 1,000 members, 4 delegates
This concession was neutralised when, at the instigation of Holman, each league which boasted more than twenty-five women members received the right of sending to Conference an extra delegate, who must be a woman, to represent the women. It was in the interests of the politicians to strengthen the league representation in comparison with that of the unions, since the latter were most inclined to be critical. A league is often quite a family affair in the hands of the sitting member. He keeps his hold on his majority in the league by the simple expedient of paying (out of his own pocket) the subscriptions of sufficient friends to ensure his re-selection and so “keep his seat warm,” that is, if it is a safe Labour seat. Yet this league, if it can show over 200 members on the books – though many of them might be dead-heads put on by the member who never attended a meeting – could cast as many votes as a union of a thousand members. On the other hand, the unionist, though he had only one vote in the selection of candidates, if he was also a member of a league, could have a sort of double representation at Conference – by his union delegates and the league delegation.
The Special Conference held in August, 1911, when criticism was becoming embarrassing to the Labour Government, again reduced the representation of the unions. In future leagues or unions were entitled –/p>
For from 50 to 1,000 members, 1 delegate.
For from 1,001 to 4,000 members 2 delegates
For from 4,001 to 8,000 members 3 delegates
and an additional delegate for every additional 4,000 members or part thereof. The additional woman's delegates from the league was retained. Thus a union with, say, 800 members, would have only half the representation of a league with, say, 100, provided twenty-five of the latter were women. The same Conference refused the Labour Council of N.S.W. the separate representation it had hitherto enjoyed. The Council's half-yearly report refers bitterly to the ingratitude of the P.L.L. in “kicking the Labour Council out of the political movement.” Signs of the cleavage between the politicians and the unionist section of the Labour Movement had already made themselves apparent. The Trade Union Congress of 1908 had considered the I.W.W. preamble, and some delegates had expressed the opinion that political action had failed. The Tramway Strike of the same year had caused some embarrassment to the parliamentarians, as it was calculated to alienate votes by the inconvenience it caused to the public and the defiance of the Arbitration Laws which it entailed. The politicians had announced that they could not countenance a breach of the law, but had assisted in the negotiations for a settlement and were blamed for the wholesale victimisation which ensued. In reply, Beeby, M.L.A., at the Lithgow Eight Hour Banquet, ascribed the strike to “the attitude of a section of the Sydney Labour Council who did not endorse the principles of arbitration. Quite possibly he went on, there might be three parties in the House, 11 as the extreme Socialist wing threatened to try and obtain representation.” 1 The possibility foreshadowed by Beeby was temporarily checked by the complete failure of the attempt of the coal miners to use “direct action” on a large scale at the end of 1909, and the prospect of a Labour Government in the State and Commonwealth Parliaments. The first action of the McGowen Government – the release of those imprisoned by Wade in connection with the Coal Strike – was also an encouragement to unionists. But they were alive to the need of making adequate use of their power in the Party.
Before the 1911 Conference of the P.L.L., the Labour Council discussed the agenda and complained about the position of the industrialists. One delegate explained that out of 644 resolutions, only a hundred emanated from industrial bodies. He thought that the industrial delegates should insist on the trade unionists retaining the balance of power, and should vote for unionists only on the P.L.L. Executive. He protested against the domination of Members of Parliament. Complaint was also made as to the smallness of the leagues in comparison with the unions and the disproportionate representation given to the former. On the other hand, A. Vernon pointed out that there were more supporters of Labour outside the unions than within them (this was certainly true at that time). The objection raised against Members of Parliament would react, he opined, seriously on the solidarity of the Movement. He knew no one who was more qualified, or who had a better right to dominate the counsels of the Party, than a Member of Parliament.1 The general feeling of the Movement was at the time undoubtedly in favour of giving the new Government a fair trial and so the secessionist movement made little headway. Later on in the same year the Broken Hill Labour Council proposed the formation of a Trades Union Political Party. The N.S.W. Labour Council, angered at its treatment by the Special Conference of the P.L.L., gave this proposition serious consideration, but the decision was postponed and, in fact, never made.
However, the Government's activity or inactivity gave cause for bitter disappointment to unionists. Early in 1912 the Legislative Council cut out the clause granting effective preference to unionists from the new Arbitration Act, and excluded from its benefits clerks and rural workers. Later on Caucus accepted an amendment moved by one of their number, McGarry, to exclude farmers from the provisions of the Bill to amend the Shearers' and Agricultural Labourers' Hut Accommodation Act, and in December the Bill was dropped altogether, in face of the hostility of the Upper House. The mutilation and sacrifice of this Bill was very bitterly resented by the A.W.U. which was at the time trying to organise the agricultural workers. The 1913 Convention of that union adopted the following resolution :
“That this Conference places on record its disgust at the action of the members of the N.S.W. Labour Party regarding the Hut Accommodation Act, and invites members to keep their actions in mind when the selection ballots are taking place.”
Lundie thought that it looked as if they had wasted time in putting men into Parliament, and they might have done better by adopting direct methods. Lambert declared that the N.S.W. Labour Party had grown into a kind of Liberal Party. In his opinion the trouble lay in the selection of candidates.1
The plan for making the Labour Party more effective as an instrument for improving the conditions of the workers, suggested in the above resolution and also at the Labour Council debate, was to substitute genuine unionists for the bourgeois candidates who sustained Labour's banner in many electorates. It was thought that actual working-men would better retain the ideals of their class and fight more vigorously for it than the persons of middle-class origin who had attached themselves to the Movement. However, the previous history of the Movement did not sustain this thesis. Joe Cook, the chief of the “rats,” had been a coal miner from boyhood. The two union leaders from the Barrier, Sleath and Ferguson, had deserted the Party in 1901. In the State Cabinet of the day, the unions were amply represented. The Premier, McGowen, had been a boilermaker, yet in the 1913 Gas Strike he signed a proclamation appealing for scabs. Alf. Edden had worked in the coal mines, but he could not carry through the Bill the miners wanted for eight hours from bank to bank. J. H. Cann had worked along the line o'lode at the Hill, Donald McDonald had shorn sheep, Fred Flowers, a painter, was a unionist of long standing. With one exception all the Ministers in the Federal Cabinet had been manual labourers at some time in their careers. So unionism had no reason to complain that it was unrepresented in Cabinet. Thus the thesis of union officials had a hypocritical appearance as though they were attacking sitting members in order to obtain seats themselves. During 1913 in the course of a controversy with Grayndler and Last of the A.W.U., G. Black, M.L.A. was at pains to show how those critics were themselves both candidates for selection, and that their names appeared on a list drawn up by the A.W.U. of those prepared to oppose sitting members.
The alternative plan was, however, now to the fore again. The Broken Hill proposal for a separate Trade Union Party was seriously considered by a Conference in July, 1913. It was supported by the Barrier delegates and the Coal Miners of the southern field. Unionists had been exasperated by the failure of the Government to prevent the victimisation of Russell, secretary of one of the miners' lodges, despite the finding of a Royal Commission in his favour, by the call for scabs in the gasworks, and the non-remission of the fines imposed on some railway strikers. But nothing came of the proposed party for the time. The idea was not abandoned, however. At the 1915 Convention of the A.W.U. Cullinan (Western Branch, N.S.W.) proposed that the union should withdraw financial support from the N.S.W. Labour Party. “Their names,” he said, “stank in the nostrils of those who held to Labour principles.” Blakeley expressed the opinion that an industrialist party was bound to arise to protect their interests.1
But this was not the policy which finally triumphed. The need for some alteration was more unmistakable every day, but to attain that end it came to be decided to recommend unions to affiliate with the P.L.L. in order to obtain control of Conference. The conference of unions, called in Newcastle at the instance of the Coal Miners, in 1915, illustrates the position. Baddeley, the President, said “that the Labour platform was all right, but the present system did not give the different industrial organisations that control that would enable them to insist upon Labour members giving wholehearted support to the workers in their troubles.” He instanced the cases of three collieries, the summonses against which had been withdrawn by the Labour Government because their employees ceased work. The Boilermakers' delegate argued that the present Labour Party had failed as it must fail – while it attempted to legislate for all classes in the community. They must be either for or against the workers; there was no middle course. A motion was passed “that the existent representation of Labour in Parliament was not a true reflex of the views of the workers, and that therefore the system of selections should be altered.” It was further resolved: “That the time had arrived for industrial unions to affiliate with the P.L.L.” 1 Similar decisions were arrived at amongst unionists elsewhere, and the result was that a determined attempt was made to bring the Government to book at the P.L.L. Conference. In 1915, as we have seen, Holman had cunningly organised the Conference against them, and so saved his skin.
The industrialists were not to be caught a second time They laid their plans for 1916 well in advance. The A.W.U. in October of the previous year had discussed the advisability of transferring the control of the P.L.L. Conference to “the class the Movement represented” from that of “wire-pulling politicians.” To this end the office of the Central Branch was transferred from Orange to Sydney. At the beginning of 1916 a committee was promoted at the Trades Hall with the object of capturing the Conference. In March a meeting was held at the A.W.U. offices in which the Coal Miners' Federation and the Railway and Tramway Service Association also participated. This group resolved to aim at an amendment of the basis of representation at Conference that would secure the unions representation in proportion to their strength. A circular to this effect was drafted and sent round to all union secretaries. Eventually the A.W.U. and the Trades Hall group joined forces, and a regular committee was formed with P. Adler (Blacksmiths), as chairman, and L. Hermann as secretary. All the delegates to Conference were circularised and canvassed; a sub-committee was formed to draw up a reply to the pamphlet issued by the Premier in defence of his Administration; it was decided to launch and press home a censure motion on the Government, taking as its text the Government's failure to deal with the Upper House. But the most far-reaching move was the decision to run a “ticket” for the Executive. Members of the industrial section, as the committee of unionists came to be called, ballotted among themselves as to who should run for seats on the Executive, and were all pledged to vote for those selected and to refuse nomination unless they were on the ticket chosen by this ballot. The committee was more or less secret, but all its doings were divulged by the secretary to Holman, who had corrupted Hermann.1
The Section, though they commanded a solid bloc of eighty-four votes only aimed at capturing a majority of the seats on the Executive. But when they reached Conference, they found that many delegates, over-estimating their strength, were anxious to join in with them at the last moment so as to be on the winning side. Holman, despite feverish organising and the running of another ticket on which several industrialists were included, completely failed to out-manoeuvre his opponents. The Section nominees captured all the places on the most important committees of Conference on the first day. The moral effect of this coup was tremendous and for the rest of the time Conference merely registered the decisions reached by the industrialists in secret conclave. They achieved, as we have seen, the exclusion of politicians from the Executive, the resignation of the Holman Government, and the Movement's opposition to conscription.
The aims of the industrialists must not be mistaken. They were not, as frequently asserted, a left wing socialist movement. The Section to some extent reflects the reaction of the I.W.W. propaganda on the unions, and included men who had been members of that organisation, like MacPherson and Buckley as well as advanced thinkers like A. C. Willis (Secretary of the Miners' Federation). On the other hand, it included quite conservative craft-unionists. The industrialists accepted the Labour platform as it stood and only desired to force the Government to give effect to that industrial legislation already provided for in many planks and the sympathetic administration that the spirit of the Party demanded. The circular sent out to delegates contained a list of nineteen industrial planks ignored by the Parliamentary Party, e.g., preference to unionists, a six-hour day underground, the right to work, equal pay to women for equal work. They were “left” in demanding that a Labour Government should legislate and administer the industrial laws in the interests of the class that was responsible for their return. For instance, they wanted the unions to be allowed to use direct action with impunity, and yet not to be deprived of the advantages of arbitration, while all the laws should be enforced against the employers with the utmost rigour. They contended that a “Liberal” Government administered the laws in the interests of the capitalists; therefore a Labour Ministry should govern in the interests of the employees. They were intolerant of the consideration shown to the farmers, e.g., by exempting them from the operations of the Hut Accommodation Act. They wanted industrial legislation in accord with the strictest interpretation of the Labour platform, and did not care what interests they alienated thereby. Finally, they were not so worried about the alleged peril of the Empire that they were prepared to see industrial legislation and social reform postponed till the world had been made safe for democracy by Sir Edward Carson and the Czar, and the capitalists and profiteers had been allowed to get a firm grip on that world. They certainly were not prepared to run the risk of industrial conscription. Yet they were not strictly internationalists or pacifists. They represented, we repeat, a genuine revolt of the unionist backbone of the Party against the time-serving and inaction of the politicians.
It was freely averred by Holman and his satellites that the Section leaders were actuated solely by a selfish desire to supplant sitting members and to get for themselves the fruits of parliamentary power. Probably this motive was not absent from the minds of many of the spokesmen and founders of the Section. The references to selections already quoted are open to this interpretation. After the conscription split many of the leading lights in the Section ran for selection, and a number of them actually got seats. Still it is idle to ascribe any important move to such low motives alone.
A highly important alteration in the basis of representation at Conference was made in 1916. In future, leagues and unions were entitled to one delegate for every thousand members or part thereof. This amendment favoured the unions as against the leagues – especially big unions like the A.W.U. which became entitled to twenty or twenty-five delegates. From this time the industrial Section became a regularly constituted organisation within the Party and formed a further check on the politicians. Any league or union might affiliate with the Section, the fee for affiliation being 5s. per thousand members or part thereof. But the Section might refuse to accept the affiliation of leagues or unions. Affiliated bodies were represented at the regular monthly meetings by one delegate per thousand members. It was governed by an Executive consisting of President, Vice-President, Secretary, and six other members. Members of the P.L.L. Executive were not eligible to sit on the Section Executive. The most remarkable provision in the constitution of this body was that the candidates on the Section's ticket for positions on the P.L.L. Executive must sign undated resignations and hand them to an officer of the Section, who would, under instructions from the Section, forward them to the secretary of the P.L.L. Executive, should its representatives not act in accordance with the instructions given them. Not content with a Conference and Executive to control the politicians, the industrialists set up a sort of super-conference to control the Conference and Executive. The open deliberations of the P.L.L. Conference, as reported in the Labour Press, were reduced to the level of mere formal ratifications of decisions already arrived at in the secrecy of the Section meeting. Such an arrangement was a departure from the democratic ideals of the Labour Movement. It might be defended on the same lines as the dictatorship of the proletariat, on the grounds that it was impossible to convert a majority to adopt a genuinely radical policy. But as we shall see it did not work out that way, but led to corruption and personal intrigue.
By 1918 elements of dissension had appeared in the Section. The A.W.U., which had been seeking to obtain domination over the Labour Party, now showed its hand openly. Having, through the industrial Section, used the smaller unions to obtain its solid bloc of twenty-five direct representatives at Conference, it now decided to capture the Party Executive. To this end a cave was organised within the Section' and the A.W.U. ran a ticket at the ballot for the Section nominees to the Executive to secure a majority of A.W.U. men on the Section ticket. Thus there was a section within the Section ; a ticket for the Section ticket. The very men who had prided themselves on the use of covert intrigue and wire- pulling to defeat Holman's tactics and had assisted in substituting for open discussions in Conference the manipulation of that body to register decisions already predetermined by a secret junta, now found themselves the victims of like manoeuvres. As long as the main questions occupying the attention of the Movement were the issues of peace and war, this split did not manifest itself openly. But in 1919 this question had settled itself. The open breach was occasioned by a difference of industrial policy among the unions.
The Labour Council, led by J. S. Garden, and the Miners, led by A. C. Willis, aimed at the establishment of One Big Union on the industrial lines laid down by the I.W.W. with a revolutionary objective. The A.W.U. wanted itself to become the One Big Union by simply absorbing other organisations, retaining the power in the hands of the existing hierarchy of officials in the pastoral section. The O.B.U. threatened the A.W.U. organisation, and a fierce feud existed between the offices of the two organisations. The A.W.U. clique were ready to go to any lengths to discredit the revolutionary body. On the other hand, its partisans wanted to make the Labour Party the political wing of the all-embracing industrial union. Thus the dispute on industrial tactics was transferred to the political field at the Conference. The A.W.U. section was supported by the politicians under Storey and Catts, who were smarting under the continual interference of the Section, and saw that a return to political power was impossible if the revolutionary aims of the O.B.U. were included in the Labour platform. Their ranks were swelled by the more conservative craft unionists who had no time for industrial unionism.
This new bloc organised Conference carefully to counteract the propaganda of the industrialists. Secret meetings were held; delegates were circularised; scurrilous attacks were made upon the leaders of the O.B.U. An anonymous pamphlet, entitled “The Pommy takes Control,” was distributed, designed to discredit the extremists because several of them happened to be English and not Australian by birth, and alleging all sorts of malpractices against them. The policy of the Worker, previously favourable to the O.B.U., was suddenly reversed by the fiat of the A.W.U. Executive Council, and Arthur Rae, another supporter of the revolutionaries, was suspended from the editorship of the Labour News, the official organ of the Labour Party, a week before the Conference. Willis was now put in the position of having to protest against secret intrigues and sections and to advocate the election of the Executive by a method of plebiscite somewhat similar to that adopted in Queensland.
Both sides were rather evenly matched, but the hold that the A.W.U. had obtained upon the Executive the previous year and the chairmanship of W. Lambert, Secretary of the Central Branch, enabled them to carry the day. The revolutionaries were defeated by narrow majorities amid great disorder, and it is credibly asserted that Lambert permitted many irregularities. In the ballot for the Executive, the Left were utterly routed, even Willis, though representing the second largest union in Australia, being defeated. It is known that the ballot- boxes were kept in the A.W.U. rooms one night, and it has been inferred that they were tampered with then. As a climax, R. Bramston, the new Vice-President, took the chair in the absence of the President, Lambert, before the returning officer's report had been officially presented and adopted. At this irregularity the O.B.U. advocates seceded from the hall in a body, and at a separate meeting talked of forming a new party. For this the leaders of the Left wing were drastically dealt with. Before any actual step had been taken to form a secessionist party, four of the leaders were treated like Hughes and Holman, and expelled by the Executive. Many other expulsions followed. On the other hand, the rump of the Conference left the politicians practically a free hand in preparing their policy for the next elections. The industrial section was formally wound up and the politicians left apparently in control of the Movement.
But this was, it is now alleged, only apparent. For more or less open control by the industrial section was, so critics assert, in reality substituted a covert control by the officials of the Central Branch of the A.W.U. They had secured a still larger share on the 1919 Executive, and made use of their power, not to further any principles or ideals, but to reward their friends and supporters with seats in Parliament secured by faked selection ballots and forged tickets. By this means they sought to secure for themselves high places; for Bailey, the Vice-President, was already an M.L.A., Blakeley, the President, had a Federal seat, and Lambert was an alderman of the City Council in Sydney. The charges of faking selection ballots were conclusively proved in one case only, but this instance is sufficient to justify the gravest suspicion in several very peculiar cases. In regard to the Namoi selection ballot a committee of the Western Branch of the A.W.U. investigated the charge of corruption and found it proved up to the hilt. To understand the procedure it must be explained that slips are attached to the tickets taken out by members of that union each year, entitling the holder to a vote in the selection ballot for the constituency in which he resides at the time. The member has to detach this slip, pin it to his ballot paper, when that has been filled in, and post the two to the returning officer. Very often that officer is an official of the union who, owing to the undemocratic system by which the organisation is governed, is entirely under the thumb of a small junta of high officials in Sydney. It is, therefore, an easy matter, if the bosses are willing to issue forged voting slips, for any number of “votes” to be manufactured. This is what happened at Namoi. The committee, in its report, dated February 24th, 1920, find that 250 postal votes were sent in, every one of which was attached to a forged voting slip. The names signed on the envelopes with the slips in no case corresponded to the names of the real holder of the ticket with the same number, as shown on the roll of members. The committee hunted up the real holders of tickets with the same numbers as those on the ballot slips, and found the genuine slip still on the ticket unused. All these forged votes had been cast for one man, Claude Thompson, then Secretary of the Amalgamated Railway and Tramway Service Association. It is supposed that the A.W.U. bosses assisted him to get a seat in Parliament in return for his influence in persuading his union to amalgamate with the A.W.U. Neither scheme came off.
The Goulburn ballot was equally fishy. There were three candidates to be elected for the large electorate where the election proper would take place under the single transferable vote system (P.R.). Among the candidates in the Labour primary were P. C. Evans, Secretary of the Executive, and J. Bailey, Vice-President of the A.W.U., and sitting Member for part of the electorate under the old system. On the votes actually polled in the district, Evans led by a substantial majority with Bailey a good second. But the final count took place at Macdonell House, the A.W.U. headquarters, where the Labour Party offices were also housed, and the returning officer was an A.W.U. organiser. In the final count 700 A.W.U. postal votes were found, and these reversed the decision of the local vote, knocked Evans right out, and left the selection to Bailey and two friends of his who were admittedly only dummies for their Vice-President. It seemed that, though there was really room for two Labour members in that electorate, Bailey was not prepared to run any risks, and wanted colleagues who would recommend the electors to give Bailey their first preference votes. Evans's complaint that the postal votes were forgeries bears on the face of it every appearance of probability. P. J. Minahan claimed, in connection with the Sydney selection ballot for the same election, that he had evidence that 250 faked postal votes had been prepared for use against him at Macdonell House. It is quite likely that similar devices were used to falsify the returns for other selections in both State and Federal constituencies.
As for the results, Bailey no doubt hoped to get a majority of members in the N.S.W. State Caucus under his power, so that he might be sure of a portfolio in the Storey Cabinet. The latter's personality frustrated this plan. In the Federal Party, however, Blakeley, the A.W.U. President, succeeded in ousting J. H. Catts from the position of Secretary to the Caucus. In municipal affairs, the Executive took the election of the Lord Mayor out of the hands of the municipal Caucus in December, 1919, in order to award the position to W. Lambert, Secretary of the Central Branch of the A.W.U. This action was quite contrary to the constitution of the Party, was bitterly resented by a majority of the aldermen, who, however, were too frightened to resist, and disadvantageous to the Party. Thus, if the allegations of the critics of the A.W.U. be accepted, the final result of the attempt by the industrialists to gain control of the Labour Party machinery has been to corrupt that machinery, vitiate the selection ballots, and hand over the Executive to an unscrupulous and selfish clique. And whether we accept these statements or no-and despite their verisimilitude they originate in partisan sources-the fact that they can be publicly promulgated by responsible Labour men – J. H. Catts, P. Brooklield, A. C. Willis, and others – and win credence from a large section within the Party, opens up unpleasant vistas of possible perversions of an uncontrolled primary election.
In Queensland there has been no split between the industrialists and the other sections. As has been remarked, the A.L.F., having brought into being the political Labour Movement in that State, and assisted in forming W.P.O.'s corresponding in purpose and form to the leagues in N.S.W., left the new Party to determine its own constitution. The second Conference determined once for all the structure of the Party organisation. Kidston wanted the Party Caucus to have the functions of an Executive, but the 1895 Conference would not agree to that. In the scheme actually adopted the Executive consisted of nominees elected by Conference, representatives of the Parliamentary Party, and delegates from the A.L.F. Parliamentarians were never to hold a majority of seats on the Executive. By this means the unionists obtained from the first official recognition on the chief administrative body of the Labour Party.
Till 1916, however, the unions had no separate representation on Conference. That assembly was composed entirely of delegates from the W.P.O.'s, though of course unionists could join these bodies, and where there was no W.P.O. in existence, the local branch of the A.W.U. or A.W.A. could constitute itself the representative of the political movement, and issue “political tickets.” The 1913 Conference gave members of affiliated unions resident in the electorate full W.P.O. rights, so that they could participate in the selection ballots and the election of Conference delegates without paying an extra subscription. But in 1916 under the influence of similar forces to those which operated in the south-the growth of class consciousness among the unionists under the influence of I.W.W. propaganda, a claim was put forward for separate representation for the industrialists on Conference. W. McCormack (who had been Secretary to the A.W.A. prior to its amalgamation with the A.W.U.) moved that delegates be elected to Conference from affiliated unions on the basis of one for the first 1,000 members, and one additional delegate for every 3,000 members thereafter, with a maximum of three delegates. He said that the industrial section was the foundation of their Movement, yet the unionists did not take any interest in it because they were dissatisfied. Another delegate thought that the W.P.O. had served a very useful purpose when there was no industrial organisation in the State. The latter movement was now of sufficient importance to have representation on any convention that might sit. On the other hand, the President, W. Demaine, who spoke as a unionist of thirty years' standing, and had been “a W.P.O. Secretary ever since there was a W.P.O. in Queensland,” stated that his experience was that unionists did not stand to their guns if they were to share in the selection of candidates, they should contribute to the expenses of an election. Mr. Hall, too, opined that unionists were to blame for their position in the matter. Some union members were not Labour supporters and joined unions only to get a direct gain.
The question was referred to a sub-committee which recommended the following scheme of representation for the unions:
For unions with from 1,000 to 3,000 members, 1 delegate.
For unions with from 3,000 to 6,000 members, 2 delegates
For unions with from 6,001 to 10,000 members, 3 delegates
For unions with from more than 10,000 members, 4 delegates
This scheme did not, McCormack explained, give all unions representation, but it would get unions to take an active interest in the Party. No one could take exception to their representation. The A.W.U. had thirty-two fully-paid organisers working in the interests of the political movement. The latter wanted whole-hearted support from both the political and industrial organisations. The two sections of the Movement should be brought together. The scheme was accordingly adopted.
At the Brisbane Conference of 1918 the industrialists demanded yet fuller recognition. The A.S.E. delegate proposed to give the smaller unions representation on a basis of one delegate for from 300 to 500 members, and to increase the representation of the larger bodies to a maximum of five delegates for more than 6,000 members. In support of this proposition Kelly (A.M.I.E.U.) said that he was forced to the conclusion that there were men prepared to draw up a platform to get into Parliament on, whether they sacrificed Labour principles or not. E. Lane, Vice-President of the A.W.U., thought the political party should be essentially based on industrialism, and advocated the elimination of any one outside the unions. Until the Movement was entirely industrial they would be unable to bring about that change in society upon which the Labour objective was founded. On the other hand, the older members pointed out that indus- trialists could secure representation by joining the W.P.O.'s. There was no definite assurance that all industrialists were in favour of the Labour Party. Conference rejected the A.S.E. proposal.
At this Conference there was a group of industrialist delegates who sat together and voted unitedly on many questions. Their constant denunciations of politicians provoked President Demaine into twitting H. Bruce (A.W.U.) with trying to get into Parliament by abusing parliamentarians. He was, in fact, at the time a candidate for selection. This was the only attempt an industrial section ever made in Queensland. There were in that State many unionists in the House and in the Cabinet, and the Labour Government paid especial attention to industrial legislation, and in its administration showed a sympathetic understanding of the aims of unionism. Thus there was indeed no need for a revolt such as was caused in N.S.W. by the Holman-McGowen rigime. NOTE-Since 1920 the main interest of Labour Conferences, at least in N.SW., has lain in the contest between the A.W.U. and its opponents to control the Party and the Executive. No one who sat through the debates of 1921, or read those of 1922, could imagine that any question of principle was here at issue. It was a mere personal squabble between two factions, and, as the protagonists of neither side bore unblemished reputations, may be passed over without further mention here. The most extraordinary cases of ballot faking have occurred during the same period. In the selection for the State seat of Sydney in January, 1922 – a five-member constituency – gangs of ex-I.W.W. men were employed to go round the booths with bogus A.W.U. voting slips. Then, in the name of purity of the ballot, the Executive disqualified Mr. McGirr, who had headed the list, and arbitrarily raised another candidate from the tail to fourth place. This action created such an outcry that a new ballot had to be held. Even more humorous was the Cook (Federal) Selection ballot at the end of the same year. In this case the official A.W.U. candidate was Tom Arthur. When he failed to secure the selection, the Executive quashed the ballot, and ordered a new one. A second vote gave the same result, and once more the Simon Pures of the State Executive found irregularities in the ballot. But not even a third ballot could persuade the Labourites of Cook to choose Mr. Arthur, and, in fact, his votes had seriously diminished.