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DISCUSSION IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

Wellington, August 29. In the House this afternoon Mr O'Connor called attention to a most important matter m connection with the seamen's strike going on at present m the colony. The shipping Company, he believed, were availing themselves of unskilled labor. The law provided that a certain proportion of skilled persons should be carried m vessels, and the Government would be grossly culpable if they stood by, and allowed it to be broken. He was informed that that very day, alongside the Wellington wharf, boys and other persons totally unfit for the positions were nominally put into them m order to enable the boats to pass out of the harbor. He asked the .Government to consider who would bear the responsibility if any of the people were lost at sea m consequence of this or their properties destroyed. It was said that the Government had even gone further than this, and sent men out of their employ on to the ships at Westport. He appealed to the Government to get the Customs authorities at once to move m the direction of putting a stop to what he had mentioned.

Mr Fish said he received a telegram from Dunedin to this effect: "Am informed that the Government have ordered their platelayers to discharge cargo on a steamer m Westport. Find out at once if correct and reply." He at once spoke to the acting Premier, who told him that so far as the Government were concerned they had done nothing, but that the Commissioners might have. The Commissioners, to whom he went accordingly, informed him that it Was practically as he had been informed. The wharf labourers m the employ of< the Government at Westport had struck that morning, and the platelayers were then called upon to take up their work. The platelayers refused to do so and were suspended. This showed that the Commissioners were disposed to interfere between labour and capital, and if the Government permitted them to persist t-hey would be to blame for the terrible results which would certainly follow. The Commissioners moreover made no secret of it, and he hoped the Government would do some,-

thing to avert the possibility of something far worse than at present existed. Dr Hodgkinson expressed his gratification that the railways were beyond the control of the House, for m this crisis the Government would have been paralysed; had they had the railways m hand, espe- : cially as there were a great many members m the House who considered themselves the special representatives of the working man and who would have harassed the Government m every way. The working people had been fooled to the top cf their bent by demagogue politicians to such an extent that they did not know whether they were standing on their heads or on their heels. He characterised the present movement as dishonest, and said that no honest man could have any sympathy with it. Mr Fisher said if the railway servants were to be placed at the disposal of the Union Steamship Company thore would b© an end to all good goreruu^ub m the colony. Mr Mitchelson said that the Government very much regretted that this struggle had happened, but they were going to remain at all events for the present strictly neutral. As to the remarks of Mr O'Connor with reference^ unskilled persona being given employment on steamers, that was a question that would have to be enquired into, and if the company were breaking the law, of course the Government would have to see that the law should be strictly complied with. As to the Railway Commissioners abetting it seemed that Mr Fish's statement was correct m that the men who usually took the coal from the Westport strikers' trucks and put it into steamers had struck. The Commissioners had requested the platelayers to take up the work, whereupon the men had refused. The Government had no power to interfere with the Commissioners, who had the whole control of the railways m their hands. The Commissioners had a duty to perform to the public; they were supposed to carry coal off the wharves and place it on board the steamers, and they must see that that was done. He was satisfied that the Commissioners would do nothing but their duty. When the time came for the Government to interfere, fche Government would do everything to bring about a settlement of the difficulty, but at present they intended to remain perfectly neutral, and would do their best to maintain the law. . Mr Moss thought if ie was true that the coal owners of Newcastle had decided to refuse to coal other vessels than those of the Shipowners Association the Government would have to interfere for the public would not summit to such a blockade. In reply to Mr Cadman, Mr Mitchelson said that he understood that all men employed on the railways and wharf were m the employ of the Commissioners. Mr Beeves (St. Albans) expressed an opinion that the Railway Commissioners would take uncommonly good care that they did nothing hostile to the capitalist class. They were m complete sympathy with that class. They were irritated against, the unions, and especially with that formed among their own employees. When the employees first asked for redress the Commissioners blustered m a very churlish way, but at the conference they were out-mance-urved, and defeated m every way. The Commissioners were anxious now to force this strike among their own men so that they would have as allies the capitalist class. They knew very well that the platelayers would not do the work which they were asked to do. If the Government could not control the Commissioners Parliament could, and it would be the duty of those who sympathised with the movement to demand that the Commissioners should not interfere with this struggle. He did not expect to see the House support labour, for nine-tenths of its members were hostile to the labour organisations, while twentynine-thirtieths of theLegislativeCouncil were also hostile, which was proved by the scandalous treatment of the Labour Bills. Finally he said that the Government would not be acting m a neutral manner if they allowed the Railway Commissioners to throw their weight into the struggle now going on. Mr Thompson (Marsden) deprecated the tone of the last speaker, and contended that such speeches should not be made m the House. The two parties m the struggle should be left to fight it out, and Parliament should m no way interfere. Mr Grimmond, Mr Taylor, and Mr Reeves (Inangahua) also spoke, after which the subject was dropped.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18900830.2.21

Bibliographic details

DISCUSSION IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2505, 30 August 1890

Word Count
1,111

DISCUSSION IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2505, 30 August 1890

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