THE "SIX HATTERS"
BRITISHERS BLOCKED AT THE
SOCIALISM RUN MAD.
"The 'six hatters' was as much a by-word in England as it could have been in Aus- tralia, so much did the people at home resent six skilled British workmen being 'held up' by Britishers on a broad British highway. . . . English people said that Australia was deliberately shutting out wealth, and after the 'six hatters' and alien employment affairs they declined to see the actions of Australia in any other light."—Mr. Henry Copeland, Agent-Gene-
ral of New South Wales.
When the Immigration Restriction Bill was introduced it did not contain any provision to block British work- men. But Mr. Watson, the Labour leader, moved the insertion of a new clause, prohibiting "any persons under a contract or agreement to perform manual labour within the Common- wealth." The amendment would, he claimed, "cover most of the classes of labour likely to be affected through people being inveigled into unfair agreements in ignorance of the condi- tions obtaining in Australia."
On December 5 six skilled hatters, who had come to Australia in the R.M.S. Orontes, under contract to work in Messrs. Charles and Anderson's new hat factory, in Sydney, at union rates, were not permitted lo land when they reached that city. The Prime Minister, through the Secretary for External Af- fairs, had instructed the Customs offi- cials to detain the men on the Orontes if they were "under contract." From one end of Australia to another there was an indignant outcry for the instant release of the men.
Upon the information they had re- ceived, Ministers detained the hatters on the Orontes for nearly a fortnight. How did they get that information? From the secretary of the Victorian Felt Hatters' Union, who got posses- sion of one of the men's agreements. The British artisans said that when they reached Melbourne they were re- ceived by members of the local union, who showed them round the city and entertained them generously. One of their number stated that the secretary to the union "asked to see a copy of the agreement to see how it compared with local conditions." The bond was handed over. The men returned to the steamer. When they reached Sydney they were refused a landing on the evi- dence of the document, because those whom they had trusted had induced the Ministry to set the Immigration
Restriction Act in motion to accom- plish something it was never in- tended to be used for. When Minis- ters were condemned on all hands for their unpardonable yielding to Labour political pressure, the Prime Minister suddenly discovered that Messrs. Charles and Anderson had to show cause why the men should be exempted from the act before they could be ad-
mitted. He began an inquiry, and found that he had no option but to allow the men to land.
Ministers were the willing tools of the labour organisations right through this unfortunate episode. Even when all the facts were disclosed, the Trades- hall Council unanimously and without discussion passed a resolution approv- ing of the act which "prevents labour from being landed in the Common- wealth under contract." No mistake can therefore be made about the aim of the socialists. They are fighting to re- tain this section in the act, and Minis- ters are aiding and abetting them. It embodies their ideals, the suppression of enterprise, of industry, or merit, of individuality, and to modernise a seven- teenth century poet—
"More socialism begets desire of more,
The hunger will increase with the store."