12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) tendered to me his resignation from the Ministry, which I accepted; and to-morrow I shall wait upon His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to be sworn in as Treasurer.
I shall not at this stage comment on the circumstances which impelled the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) to resign his portfolio, but I take this opportunity to say to honorable members and the people that during the period in which he has been Treasurer he has done most valuable work in the interests of the Commonwealth. He brought to bear on difficult and complicated tasks immense industry and great intellectual capacity. I feel that Iwould be failing in my duty if I did not, for myself and the other members of the Cabinet, at this stage bear public testimony to the loyalty, courage and ability with which the honorable member has discharged his most exacting and responsible duties.
.- by leave - I thank the Prime Minister for the very generous tribute he has paid to tho services rendered during the brief period I occupied the position of Treasurer of the Commonwealth. The circumstances that have led to my retirement from ministerial office are well known to honorable members and the public. The recent report of a royal commission in Queensland has reflected so seriously upon my character, and has impugned my honesty so definitely, thatI had no alternative but to hand in my resignation as a Minister of the Crown, and await an opportunity to vindicate my character. I do not wish anyone to infer that my retirement from ministerial office is in any sense an admission that the report of the royal commission is justified. I have resigned in recognition of the duty I owe to my former colleagues in the Cabinet, to Parliament, and to the country.
A grave injustice has been done to me, and an opportunity must be afforded to me to clear my character. This is not the occasion to deal fully with the investigation recently conducted in Queensland,nor to traverse the report of the royal commission; but I hope that an opportunity will be afforded to me later to state fully my position. There are, however, two or three matters which at this juncture should be made clear. The impression has been created by the press that I failed to present myself as a witness before the royal commission, and am, therefore, in some sense to blame if the report is unjust to me. I wish to remove that misapprehension. ‘When the royal commission was appointed, the terms of reference in no way challenged my honour, although they related to certain administrative acts and other happenings in Queeusland appertaining to the time when I was Premier of that State. Certainly, the terms of the reference were wide, but nothing in them suggested to me that the inquiry was in any way directed against me, or involved serious charges against my honour. During the course of the inquiry I read in the newspapers reports of evidence in which my name was frequently mentioned. Accordingly, during the month of May I communicated with the Department of Justice in Queensland, calling attention to the fact that my name had been mentioned several times in evidence, and suggesting that I should appear as a witness before the royal commission. I offered, subject to the convenience of the commission, to present myself on either the 29th or 30th of May to give evidence. I desire to emphasize that I had not, up to this time, been invited by the commission to give evidence. In due course, I received a reply from the department that the dates I had mentioned would not be convenient to the Royal Commissioner, who had arranged to visit North Queensland, but that on his return to Brisbane I would be further advised of his wishes. Subsequently I was informed that I should present myself to give evidence on ihe 17th June. The letter iu which I was told that reached me only a few days before the date mentioned in it, and I immediately replied that the 17th June would not be convenient to me; that I was engaged in the preparation of the budget, and felt that I would not be free to visit Queensland until the budget had been presented to Parliament. But I promised to indicate at an early date the time when I would be at liberty to appear before the commission. I think I mentioned in my letter that the budget would be delivered early in July. In reply I received a communication from the Crown Solicitor stating that the Royal Commissioner regarded my letter as vague and unsatisfactory, and I sent an urgent telegram on the same day, stating that the work on which I was engaged could not be dropped, that the budget would bc delivered early in July, after which certain concomitant measures arising out of it would have to be dealt with by Parliament; and that, until they had been disposed of, I would not be free to leave Canberra. I suggested that the commission should adjourn its inquiry in order to give me an opportunity to present myself for examination later. I added that I was surely entitled to be heard, as my name had been so frequently mentioned, and as the commissioner had, according to newspaper reports, required the Bank of New South Wales to produce particulars of my private and personal banking account. The only other communication I received was again from the Justice Department in Queensland, advising me that the Commissioner would keep the inquiry open until the 28th June, within which time I could present myself to give evidence. In view of these communications, the only conclusion I could come to was that the- Commissioner considered that my evidence would not be of importance. In view of the fact that he refused to concede the time necessary to present myself, it certainly ‘lid not occur to me that he was contemplating the bringing of a damning indictment against me.
It is a recognized principle of British justice that a postponement must always be granted in a court of any jurisdiction to meet the convenience of essential witnesses, even in the ordinary walks of life. It is within our knowledge that a judge sitting in Canberra, three weeks ago, as a commissioner, to inquire into certain grave allegations concerning honorable members of this House, adjourned the commission’s proceedings sine die, to enable evidence to be taken from one or two witnesses who were not then available. That judge is actively engaged in fulfilling the functions of a high judicial position, whereas the gentleman who presided over the inquiry in Queensland is merely a pensioner in retirement, whose time should not have been so enormously important as to prevent him from postponing his inquiry and continuing his investigations a little later.
Naturally, I feel my position keenly. I consider that I have not been given ordinary fair play, that I have not received that measure of British justice to which, in matters of this kind, every man is fully entitled. The Commissioner must have known how his mind was being affected by the evidence, if he was taking notice of it. If his mind was being directed in such a way as to inculpate me, is it not reasonable to assume that he ought, as a concession to justice, to have done something to meet my convenience? Is it any wonder, in the circumstances, that I have come to the conclusion that I have been the victim of a hired assassin in this matter? I naturally speak strongly. Possibly I am embittered against the man who has made this report.
I have only seen the newspaper reports of the commission’s findings ; but as these practically agree, I have no doubt that they are accurate. Having studied them carefully, I have discovered that there are six or seven points which involve myself. I am merely going to refer to these ; I do not propose to answer them in this House. This is not the place for that.
The Commissioner finds that Goddard, who was the manager of the Government smelters at Chillagoe, was dishonestly appointed by Mr. Jones, the then Minister for Mines, Mr. McCormack and myself; that the allocation of capital between the Chillagoe railway, the smelter enterprise, and certain mines that were purchased from the Chillagoe company - an allocation arbitrarily madu by me when Treasurer of Queeusland in 1918 - was illegally made. He finds that from the outset, presum ably from 1917, when Reid acquired certain leases at Mungana, there was a corrupt intent to sell them to the Government, in which I am alleged to be implicated. He finds further that there was an improper and secret interest held by myself in mining concerns known as the Argentum and Fluorspar mines ; that there was improper influence used by Mr. McCormack and myself in connexion with certain contracts for the supply of timber to the Mount Mulligan mine - a contract placed with the Tarzali sawmills in 1926 ; that the purchase of the Mungana leases was not justified; that the mines were worthless, and that the proceeds of the sale were shared, in some secret understanding arrived at, apparently years before, between Mr. McCormack, Mr. Goddard, Mr. Reid and myself.
I am not going to answer these charges here ; I am looking for a better opportunity. But that I may throw some light on them, or by way of justifiable passing comment, let me say this : In suggesting that Goddard was dishonestly appointed by Messrs. Jones, McCormack and myself in 1918, I can only conclude that the Commissioner, in framing his report, evidently did not know, or overlooked, or somehow negligently dealt with, the fact that Mr. McCormack was not a Minister in Queensland at that time, and had nothing whatever to do with the appointment of Goddard. With regard to the alleged improper influence over the manager of the enterprise in regard to” the Tarzali timber contracts, the Commissioner states that Goddard acted under the malign influence of his superiors, McCormack and Theodore. That contract, I remind the House, was made in May, 1926, fourteen months after I had ceased to be a Minister in the Queensland Government.
I only wish to say at this stage with regard to these charges that all of them are damnably false, and that where they are founded upon evidence, that evidence is tainted and malicious. I know this is only a statement ; I am not asking honorable members to judge me here. I shall indicate directly how I hope to be judged on these mutters. This morning I received a communication from Brisbane informing me that Messrs. Fahey and Real, leading counsel at the Queensland Ear, who acted at the inquiry for Messrs. McCormack, Goddard andReid, and Mr. McPherson, the solicitor who instructed them, had a conference in Brisbane yesterday, presumably in connexion with the Commissioner’s report, and they prepared the following statement : -
The Commission’s finding was absolutely unjustified and biased. There was no oral evidence connecting Mr. Theodore in any way with the charges. The Commission’s finding was based upon assumption and inference only. We regard it as a scandalous decision.
I did not solicit that opinion from counsel. They acted entirely voluntarily, so far as I know, in meeting in conference, and in making this comment upon the report.
I claim that I am entitled to a fair and rational opportunity to clear my mime.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I cannot do it here, because no opportunity would normally present itself to me. In a matter of this kind I have not recourse to the civil courts. The report of a royal commission is a privileged document. It may contain the most atrocious and malicious charges, damnifying a man’s character; but being privileged, it cannot be attacked.
I have, so far as I can see, only one hope; and that is that the Queensland Government, by formulating against me an indictment covering without abatement every one of the charges that have been made against me by the Royal Commissioner, may give me an opportunity to face my accuser or accusers and to answer those charges. I ask not for the appointment of another royal commission, but for a fair trial of these issues before judge and jury which, I suppose, can be afforded me only by the Attorney-General of Queensland presenting an indictment against me. To have to submit to such a course is humiliating; yet it appears to me to be the course which I must seek and which I now demand. It is only in this way that I can clearmy name. I shall not mind the humiliation if I am given a fair opportunity to face my accusers, and to present evidence in rebuttal of that which they may bring in support of their charges. If given a fair opportunity to answer those charges, I am prepared to submit to whatever intermediate disgrace or humiliation may attach to me in these circumstances.
I do not wish to weary or delay the House with a further consideration of my troubles. I regret that what has happened is of such a nature as must necessarily cause inconvenience to the Government and to the country. But I am innocent of the causes and the troubles that have brought about this disturbance. I am the victim of the circumstances. I merely ask now - and I contend that I am entitled to ask it, not only in my own name, but also in the name of this honorable House as well as of Australia - to be given a chance to refute the charges that have been made against me. If I am guilty of a tithe of what has been alleged against me in this report, then I am not worthy to be a member of this House; if I am not guilty, I am assuredly entitled to demand the right to clear my name of the tarnish that at present covers it.
I have given a lifetime to public service in this country - public service that I hope has been useful. I have had exalted ideals. I believe that I have recognized what is necessarily expected of a man occupying a high and an honorable office in public life. I claim that in the administration of any office that I have held I have kept my hands clean. These definite charges have been made against me; there is imposed upon me the duty of demonstrating that I have acted honorably; and I shall do it. I assure my former colleagues and my friends-who, as I have had ample evidence in the last two days, are a numerous band - that they need not have any misgiving on my account, no apprehension that I cannot entirely clear my name if given an opportunity to do so.
Finally, I demand that the Queensland Government formulate without delay an indictment against me, or in some manner enable me to appear before an unimpeachable tribunal to be heard in my defence against these calumnies and these damnagainst these culumnies and these damnable charges that have been levelled against me.
– I have frequently found, especially recently, that the lifts in this building are out of order when one wishes to use them. Will you, Mr. Speaker, take action to have them put in the order in which honorable members expect to find them?
– I was not aware that the lifts were not operating to the satisfaction of honorable members. I shall have investigations made, and inform the honorable member what action has been taken.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What are the respective mobilization strengths in aeroplanesand personnel of Great Britain, France, United States of America, Japan, Russia, Italy, Holland, and Australia?
– The only figures normally published are the actual numbers of personnel serving and the numbers of first line aircraft in units established in peace. No figures are available of the strengths of trained reserves of personnel which would be called up on mobilization or of immediate reserve and stored reserve aircraft which would be available for new units or to replace casualties in war. Published figures, and the sources of information from which they have been obtained, are given in the following table: -
Admission of Wives
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Charges by British Government.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Promotion of Telephonists - Replacement of Males with Females.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Mr. LYONS (through Mr. Beasley). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr. Christie: Use of Official Car - Allocation of Expenses
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Capital Territory, the present Civic Administrator, Mr. Christie, has been responsible for, or recommended the dismissals of a Large number of employees engaged on public works at Canberra ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr.WATKINS asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Item 136(d) - Iron and steel - Plate and sheet (plain) exceeding one-eighth of an inch in thickness.
Increased duty deferred until 1st July, 1931.
Item 152(a) - Iron and steel tubes and pipes not more than 3 inches internal diameter: iron and steel boiler tubes.
Increased duty deferred until let January, 1931?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the cost to the Commonwealth, since 1900, under the following heads: -
) Federal Parliament ;
Commonwealth Public Service?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value of interstate imports into Western Australia of goods of overseas origin during the year ended 30th June, 1929?
– The answeris £833,851.
– On the 19th June, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) asked me whether I would lay on the table of the House a statement showing the effect of the operation of Statutory Rule 1930, No. 55, relating to Public Service Regulations 72b and 72c, and other regulations. I am how in a position to lay on the table a copy of a memorandum which has been prepared by the Public Service Board in connexion with this matter.
– On the 2nd July, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister for Defence issue instructions that greatcoats be included in the equipment of senior cadets as well as the Militia?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that senior cadets affiliated with the Militia Forces are provided with uniform including greatcoats. Non-affiliated senior cadets, i.e., school detachments, provide their own uniform and this includes greatcoats if considered necessary.
– On the 4th July, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked the following question, upon notice -
On how many items in the existing customs tariff does the British preferential duty amount to (a) 5 per cent.; (b) 7½ per cent.; (c) 10 per cent.; (d) 12½ per cent.; (e) 15 per cent.; (f) 20 per cent.; and (g) over 20 per cent.?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
It is not possible to gauge the equivalent ad valorem margin of preference on goods which carry fixed, composite, or alternative fixed or ad valorem duties. The information supplied hereunder covers items which provide for ad valorem rates of duty (including those which provide for an alternative ad valorem rate.) The number of items mentioned covers also sub-items and sections of sub-items where such occur.
- per cent. margin of preference 26;
7½ per cent. margin of preference, nil;
10 per cent. margin of preference, 321 ;
12½ per cent. margin of preference, 19;
15 per cent. margin of preference 249;
20 per cent. margin of preference 105;
Over 20 per cent. margin of prefer ence 33.
– On the 25th June, the right honorable member for Cowper. (Dr. Earle Page) asked the following question, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Censorship of Advertising Matter
– On the 4th July, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 18th June, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
The number of persons retired under the act was 672.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 2nd July (vide page 3595).
Clause 8 postponed.
Postponed clause 7 -
Suction eighteen a of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (4.) the words “ to make an award - “ and paragraphs (a) and (b), and inserting in their stead the words - “ (i) either tomake an award -
increasing the standard hours of work in any industry;or
reducing the basic wage or altering the principles on which it is computed,
or to vary or give an interpretation of an award where the variation or interpretation would result in any such increase, reduction or alteration,”.
Section proposed to be amended - (4.) Notwithstanding anything contained in thisact, the court shall not have jurisdiction to make an award -
increasing the standard hours of work in any industry; or
reducing the standard hours of work in any industry to less than forty eight-hours per week, or, where the standard hours of work in any industry are less than forty-eight hours per week reducing the standard hours of work in that industry, unless the question is heard by the Chief Judge andnot less than two other judges, and the increase or reduction, as the ease may be, is approved by a majority of the members of the court by whom the question is heard:
Provided that this sub-section shall not apply to any ease in which the hearing of the. claim and the taking of evidence in the court were commenced before thecommencement of this section.
.- The amendment which is now proposed by the Attorney-General is really the acceptance of my amendment with a variation in the wording, which I regard as an improvement. Therefore, I ask leave of the committee to withdraw the amendment which I have moved to insert the words “ or reducing “, after the word “ increasing “.
Amendment -by leave - withdrawn.
.- I move-
That the word “ increasing “, sub-paragraph a, proposed new paragraph i, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ altering “.
I have other inter-related amendments to move,’ the effect of which will be to make sub-section 4 read as follows: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act. the court shall not have jurisdiction - (i.) either to make an award -
altering the standard hours of work in any industry; or
altering the basic wage or the principles on which it is computed;
or to vary, or give an interpretation of, an award, where the variation or interpretation would result in anysuch alteration: unless the question is heard by the Chief Judge and not less than two other judges, and the increase or reduction, as the case may be, is approved bya majority of the members of the court by whom the question is heard;
Provided that this sub-section shall not apply to any case in which the hearing of the claim and the taking of evidence in the court were commenced before the commencement of this suction.
I do not wish to speak further on the clause. It was debated when first submitted, and, generally speaking, the views expressed in support of it will also apply to it as now proposed to be amended.
– I am glad that the Government has seen its way to accept the suggestion made from this side that a bench of three judges should be required to reduce or increase the standard hours of labour or the basic wage. The effect of the amendments proposed by the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) is to accept the proposal made from this side on that point. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has reconsidered the matter, and has attached weight to the arguments advanced by members of the Opposition. The amendments will make a real contribution towards a feeling that the subject of conciliation and arbitration has been dealt with more fairly than many have considered it was being dealt with when this bill was first introduced. I express my complete concurrence in the amendments, and my satisfaction that the AttorneyGeneral is to move them.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -
That the word”reducing” sub-paragraph a, proposed now paragraph i, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “altering”
That the word “altering,” sub-paragraph a, proposed new paragraph i, be omitted.
That the words “increase, reduction or,” proposed new paragraph ii, be omitted.
That the following wordsbe added to the clause “and - (b) by omitting from that subsection the words ‘increase or reduction’ and inserting in lieu thereof the words ‘alteration, variation or interpretation’ “.
Clause also further amended verbally, and, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 8 -
Section eighteenc of the principal act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words “ such of “;
by omitting from that sub-section the words”as are assigned to him by the Governor-General”;
Section proposed to be amended - 18c. - (1.) The Governor-General may appoint Conciliation Commissioners of such number and upon such terms and conditions as to remuneration, tenure and otherwise as he thinks fit. (2.) A Conciliation Commissioner shall have such of the powers of a judge under sections sixteen and sixteen A of this act as are assigned to him by the Governor-General.
Upon which Mr. Latham had moved by way of amendment -
That the following new paragraph be inserted before paragraph b “(ba) by inserting in that sub-section after the words ‘ this act ‘ the words ‘such powers to be exercised under the direction of the Chief Judge ‘ “.
.- The Attorney-General has circulated an amendment which is a complete redrafting of the clause, and which the committee will find it more convenient to consider than mine. I therefore ask leave to withdraw my amendment in order that the Attorney-General may move his comprehensive amendment. I shall be at liberty to propose my amendment to the proposed new section if I think it proper to do so.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– I move -
That all the words from and including the word “ amended “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “repealed” and the following section inserted in its stead: - 18c. - (1.) The Governor-General may appoint Conciliation Commissioners of such number and upon such terms and conditions as to remuneration and otherwise as he thinksfit. (2.)Each Conciliation Commissioner shall, subject to this act, be appointed for a term of five years, and be eligible for reappointment. (3.) A Conciliation Commissioner shall devote the whole of his time to the duties of his office except when he is absent on leave granted by the Attorney-General. (4.) The Attorney-General may suspend a Conciliation Commissioner from office for misbehaviour or incapacity. (ii.) The Minister shall within seven days after the suspension, if the Parliament is then sitting, or if the Parliament is not then sitting, within seven days after tho next meeting of the Parliament, cause to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament a full statement of the grounds of the suspension, and if within sixty days thereafter an address is presented to the GovernorGeneral by the Senateand the House of Representatives praying for the restoration of the Conciliation Commissioner to office, the Conciliation Commissioner shall be restored accordingly; but if no such address is so presented the Governor-General may confirm the suspension and declare the office of that Conciliation Commissioner to be vacant and the office shall thereuponbe and become vacant. (6.) A Conciliation Commissioner shall be deemed to have vacated his office if -
he engages, during his term of office, in any employment (not being employment in the Public Service of the Commonwealth) outside the duties of his office; or
he becomes bankrupt or insolvent, or applies to take the benefit of any act for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, or compounds with his creditors, or makes an assignment of his salary for their benefit; or
he is wilfully absent from duty for a period of fourteen consecutive days except on leave granted by the AttorneyGeneral (which leave the AttorneyGeneral is hereby authorized to grant), or becomes incapable of performing his duties. (7.) A Conciliation Commissioner shall have the powers of a judge under sections sixteen and sixteen a of this act, but the appointment of a Conciliation Commissioner shall not affect the exercise by a judge of his powers under those sections. (8.) A Conciliation Commissioner shall also have all the powers which the court or a judge has under section thirty-eight of this act, other than -
the powers contained in paragraphs (d) and (f) of that section, and
the power to give an interpretation of any term of an existing award, contained in paragraph (o) of that section:
Provided that a Conciliation Commissioner shall not have power in pursuance of this section, cither to make or vary an award, which by reason of the provisions of section eighteen a or eighteen aa of this act, cannot be made or varied by a single judge. (9.) Any award or order made by a Conciliation Commissioner pursuant to the power conferred by this section shall for all purposes be and be deemed to be an award or order of the court.”
As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has said, a substantial alteration of this clause is now proposed. Honorable members have before them the original memorandum that was circulated, together with a new memorandum of proposed amendments. The proposed new section18c defines more clearly, I think; the functions of conciliation commissioners. It defines also their tenure of office, which was the subject-matter of some criticism by honorable members, and it indicates their powers in a more definite way than did the more general terms employed in the original amend- ‘ ment. The amendment speaks for itself, and I ask the committee to accept it.
.- This is an important amendment, and I do not know how many members are in a position to understand exactly what it accomplishes. The Attorney-General has read it, but it is rather difficult for those who are not familiar with this special legislation to follow the effect of the amendment when compared with the existing section. The proposed amendments that the Minister has brought down have been before honorable members only since their coming to the House this afternoon. By the courtesy of the Minister, I received a copy about twenty minutes before I entered the chamber, and I was able to glance hurriedly through them, but other honorable members have not had even that advantage. I suggest that the Attorney-General might have afforded honorable members generally a more complete explanation than he has given of the proposed alterations of the existing law. In general, I may say that the amendments now circulated are as extensive as the original bill. The committee is apparently expected to deal with them forthwith, and upon some of them there may be serious differences of opinion. The first amendment submitted by the Minister this afternoon I was able to accept, because it was exactly on the lines of what had been proposed and argued from the Opposition benches. I shall indicate the variations from the present law proposed under the amendment now before the committee. At present the act provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, who act as conciliation commissioners only, and exercise such conciliatory powers as are assigned to them by the GovernorGeneral. Under the amendment the commissioners are to have a tenure for a fixed term of five years, and are to be eligible for reappointment; under the present act, they hold office only during the pleasure of the Governor-General. There appears to be no objection to that tenure in the case of conciliation commissioners; but, under the amendment, it is proposed that they shall have arbitral powers, and, for that reason, the, Opposition contended that they ought to have a tenure which would give them some degree of security and independence. This amendment preserves the intention of the Government to confer arbitral powers on conciliation commissioners, but provides that they shall be appointed for five years, and that they shall be subject to removal for misbehaviour or incapacity, in the manner set forth in the clause. This is an improvement if the conciliation commissioners are to exercise arbitral powers. The proposed new sub-section 7 entitles a conciliation commissioner to exercise the powers of a judge; but a proviso has been inserted, the object of which is to prevent a conciliation commissioner from undoing, by himself, what three judges may do under sections 16 and 16a. An objection was raised in our earlier discussion of this sub-section that three judges might make an order, let us say, reducing the basic wage, or increasing the hours of work, and the next day a single conciliation commissioner might alter that decision. This new proviso is, therefore, an improvement. All the changes to which I have referred so far are improvements of the measure as it was introduced. They attribute weight to the arguments used by honorable members on this side of the chamber and, to that extent, I agree with them if the. clause is acceptable to the committee.
But the question arises as to whether, even given a tenure of office for five years, a conciliation commissioner should be given full arbitral powers. This appears to me to be neither necessary nor desirable.
– It would save a lot of legal expenses if the parties through a conciliation commissioner, could reach an agreement.
– That is true; but if the parties reached an agreement it would not be arbitration. That is my whole point.
– But under these provisions the commissioner would have power to decide any matter referred to him.
– That would be arbitration, and that power is quite distinct from the conciliation power. I agree that every resource should be tried in order to bring about a settlement of an industrial dispute. But the question is whether a conciliation commissioner, appointed for five years without any qualifications for the office being prescribed in the act, should have practically all the powers hitherto exercised by an Arbitration Court judge.
– Not all of them.
– The exceptions are negligible. The conciliation commissioners, it is true, would not have the power to impose penalties, or interpret a wards ; nor would they be able to exercise the invalid power of making a common rule.
– What about the basic wage and standard hours?
– A single judge will not be able to exercise those powers.
– Heretofore he could exercise one of them.
– That is so; but to all intents and purposes the conciliation commissioners would have the ordinary power of Arbitration Court, judges to make ordinary awards. They would be able t.o deal with all the disputes which judges normally deal with, subject only to the exceptions to which attention has been drawn. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) has pointed out, there is a provision in the bill that certain matters must be dealt with by three judges, and the scope of these matters has been extended by these amendments.
The point I ask honorable members to consider is, whether it is wise to clothe the conciliation commissioners with the great power of making awards in inter state disputes, which must profoundly affect the whole industry of Australia.
– That applies to the Victorian wages boards.
– That power is exercised on an entirely different . scale; Honorable members often overlook the tremendous difference between industry in the Commonwealth and State spheres. Take the largest and most important State from an industrial point of view, New South Wales. In that State most important matters are determined by the State industrial tribunal. I have mentioned New South Wales in particular, because of the magnitude of certain industries carried on there, though the same thing is true of Victoria in regard to certain other industries. But the federal industrial power is exercised only when two or more States are involved in a dispute. One of the difficulties that I have always felt to exist in adapting the wages board or conciliation committee systems to federal industrial matters is that of obtaining satisfactorily constituted and thoroughly representative tribunals.
– Although in the federal sphere, the territory may be larger than in the State sphere the number of respondents in a particular case may be considerably smaller.
– That would all depend upon the industry. If an interstate dispute occurred in the industry of painting the insides of dolls’ eyes, the territory involved might be large, but the industry small. The wages board or conciliation committee systems work fairly well in St ate spheres because thoroughly repre-, sentative tribunals can be set up; but this would often not be possible in the federal sphere. Only certain federal industries are suitable for control by these means. I have always considered, and still consider, that the maritime industry -is one of them. This is because the employees in this industry travel from place to place, and the head-quarters of their organizations, like that of the employers, are in Melbourne or Sydney.
– Would not the application of this system to other industries tend to induce the employers to work on a Federal rather than a State br.3i3?
– It appears to me that there are severe mechanical - if I may use that term - or physical difficulties in the way. In some industries the committee system would not be satisfactory unless every State was represented on the committee. This must be true of many industries not organized on the same basis as the maritime industry. If a dispute occurred which involved six States, I cannot conceive of it being likely that the men in Western Australia would be entirely content to have their conditions fixed by representatives of the employees in the other States; nor would the employers in Western Australia bc satisfied with such a system. There will always inevitably he- a tendency to demand that there shall be effective representation on all such committees of employers and employees alike from each State concerned in the dispute. Such a demand would not be founded upon any idea of State rights. As honorable members know, Australia has developed mainly radially from the cities. The State divisions may be imaginary lines, but to a very considerable extent they correspond with industrial divisions of competitive importance. The industries of Victoria are, perhaps unfortunately, to a large extent grouped round Melbourne. In New South Wales they are grouped in Sydney and Newcastle. In Queensland there is more distribution, as the railway system there is designed to feed not one but several ports. In South Australia, those industries which arc largely regulated by the Federal Arbitration Court are situated in Adelaide and its suburbs. In Tasmania, industry is centered chiefly in Hobart and Launceston, and in Western Australia it is confined largely to Perth. Owing to the fact that they have developed outwards from their centres, the .Australian States are, to a considerable extent, separate industrial areas, though there is, of course, competition between them. Differences have developed, some natural and some artificial, which have the effect of making each State largely a separate industrial entity. For this reason it is difficult, except in the maritime industry, to obtain representatives of the employers and employees, who will be at the same time representative of the States and will bc able to travel thousands of miles to engage in the hearing of a case which may be prolonged for weeks.
– It will not be more unsatisfactory than the present system, under which one advocate represents the employers in a particular industry throughout the- whole Commonwealth.
– That may be, but the point I am making is that when committees with power to issue awards are appointed as the bill provides, there will be, in many cases, a demand for representation from different States. According to the amendments that have been circulated, conciliation committees are to be appointed to deal with disputes. Section 34 of the bill has been largely redrafted, and it is proposed to give the chairman of a conciliation committee power to make an award when the parties fail to agree. I expected, when I inserted in the last amending bill provision for the appointment of conciliation committees, that they would have been availed of as far as possible. Unfortunately, they have not been used, largely for political reasons, because, as trade union representatives have privately admitted to me, they were introduced by the late Government. I am prepared to listen to any suggestions for the improvement of the bill, but those who expect any great improvement in industrial relations to follow the appointment of conciliation commitees presided over by a conciliation commissioner will, I am afraid, be disappointed. It will be often difficult for true representatives of an industry to absent themselves from their business occupations sufficiently long to deal with the difficult and intricate matters which come under federal industrial jurisdiction.
The amendments which have been introduced as upon the originally proposed clause constitute an improvement, but the fact remains that conciliation commissioners are to have arbitration powers, and they are to be given only a five years’ tenure of office. I can see no advantage in this proposal. The judges of the Arbitration Court are able to cope quite well at the present time with the work to be done. This provision will only add unnecessarily to the number of arbitrators. I cannot see that anything will be gained by conferring arbitration powers on the conciliation commissioners, and therefore, while I agree that the amendments upon the clause as originally introduced are an improvement, and will meet some of the objections advanced by members on this side, I propose to vote against the whole clause in order to emphasize my view that it is both unwise and unnecessary to confer arbitration powers upon conciliation commissioners, even upon those appointed under the clause as now proposed to be amended.
.- While I agree to some extent with the objection that two representatives on each side “may provide inadequate representation of industry on the conciliation committees, it would be difficult for every State to be given representation. At the present time, an advocate appearing for the employers or employees in a case before the court has to represent the industry throughout the whole Commonwealth. While the present bill does not meet all the objections that could be raised, it goes a “good deal further than anything we have had up to now. When I was speaking on the second reading of this bill, I said that the measure did not go far enough to please me because, in my opinion, all the powers should be taken away from the judges and placed in the hands of committees and commissioners. I believe that the atmosphere of a court is not conducive to the peaceful settlement of disputes. So far as I am concerned, those provisions of the bill which in any way confer increased powers upon conciliation committees have my whole-hearted support. I have always felt, and those who have had experience in industrial matters agree with me, that arbitration will never be a success until it is taken away from the court and conducted in an atmosphere where men can talk over among themselves the matter in dispute and reach a compromise. Both sides are now victims of the peculiar atmosphere of the Arbitration Court, an atmosphere which makes it extremely difficult to grant concessions. The representative of the employers is very often merely a paid agent or servant, and he feels that he has to put up the best possible case he can in order to justify his position. He is not in a position to compromise.
– That is the same on both sides.
– Yes; the same thing happens in regard to union representatives.
– That has always been the difficulty in regard to the court.
– When the union representatives enter the court they find it composed of persons who are not as well acquainted with the circumstances of the industry as they are themselves, and they feel that they must press as strongly as possible all the claims in the log. Very often those who know the circumstances feci that the claims go a little too far, or that they are not practicable in the industry to which it is proposed to apply them. That is true of both sides; the representatives feel that they must do the best they can to put their own case in a favorable light. Even under the wages board system as it obtains in some States a better spirit of compromise is possible. Unfortunately, one of the limitations of the wages board system, at least, as it applies in Victoria, is that the hoard has not power in every case to deal finally with all the matters in dispute. This is the case, for instance, with the railways wages board.
– It is not a true wages board. The ordinary wages board has full powers.
– They have not complete power to deal with matters which the unions desire that they should. As far as they go,’ they do good work, but they have their limitations.
– Certain decisions can be arrived at only by the consent of .all the members of the board.
– As the honorable member points out, some decisions have to be unanimous; otherwise the board has no power in respect to such matters. The conciliation committees proposed to be appointed under this bill will have power to deal with all matters in dispute. When men are sitting together on a conciliation committee an entirely different spirit prevails from that observable in an arbitration court, where there is a judge seated on the bench observing all the formalities associated with a judiciary. In a conciliation committee the chairman or commissioner is down amongst the disputing parties, conferring with them and inducing them to compromise on the matters in dispute. It is not always easy for the employees’ ^representative to give way even when he feels inclined to do so. He feels that he must take a certain stand and that compromise with the other side may involve some humiliation of the organization he ^represents. Those appearing for the employers are restrained by similar considerations; but both sides may be prepared to compromise at the suggestion of an impartial chairman or conciliation commissioner. Only by these means will disputes be peacefully settled. The amended proposals of the Government are sound and will assure to arbitration greater success than has attended it in the past. Some honorable members appear to be afraid that political or industrial partisans will be appointed conciliation commissioners. I want the Government to appoint men who are naturally qualified to be conciliators or arbitrators and who have a practical knowledge of industry. Provided that the right type of man is chosen, I do not care from what side of industry he is drawn. I have met excellent men on both sides, and I would not shut out either a trade union secretary or a representative of the employers if by knowledge and temperament he was qualified for the job. One reason for the vital failure of arbitration in the past is that previous Governments selected men who, although upright and learned and of great intellectual capacity, lacked the essential qualities of an arbitrator. There are men in the community who possess those qualifications in an outstanding degree. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) referred to a gentleman who acted as chairman of the war-time ship-building tribunal. Mr. Connington is not a member of the Labour party, but by reason of his temperament and practical knowledge and experience he is an ideal conciliator. If men of his type are appointed the success of the system the Government is proposing will be assured. I welcome whole-heartedly the proposal to remove arbitral functions entirely from the court, reserving to the judges only questions of law. While there is more than a vague suspicion that those who preside in the Arbitration Court do not understand the problems of industry I see little chance of arbitration proving successful. I welcome with enthusiasm the Attorney-General’s proposed amendments of the bill.
.- Although the proposed new section is an improvement on that which originally appeared in the bill, even in its present form I disapprove of it. The Government asssumes that every industrial dispute must necessarily go before a Government arbitrator or conciliation commissioner.
Are honorable members aware that daily conciliation is effected within various industrial organizations ? ‘ The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) has spoken fairly and frankly of the bias that may exist in a person chosen from- either side of industry; but he must be aware that the organizations of employers, through the Chamber of Manufactures and the Chamber of Commerce, and the trade unions confer frequently, and on almost any day one ‘may see at the premises of the Chamber of Manufactures at Melbourne or Sydney representatives of both sides in an industry meeting in conference to settle their difficulties. Perhaps greater results are achieved at these round-table gatherings than in the Arbitration Court.
– This bill provides for conciliation of that kind.
– The Government’s proposal is unnecessary. Is not industry sufficiently burdened already without being loaded up with highly-paid conciliation commissioners who will be appointed for five years, and whose behaviour will be influenced by their desire to have their appointments extended? What is the need for creating new positions in the Public Service? Is that body not large and expensive enough already? All the additional cost involved must be passed on to industry.
– The settlement of one dispute might save the whole of the cost.
– Let us encourage conciliation between employers and employees, not through expensive government appointees. The proposed new section does not specify any qualifications for a conciliation commissioner. An appointee may be an industrial extremist who is a menace to his own party, to industry, and to the community generally; on the other hand he may be a reactionary and die-hard employer who will not yield on any point. Industry is struggling along under great difficulties. Unemployment is of unprecedented extent; but even the latest amendments submitted by the Government will not provide one additional job for the workless. Costs must be reduced if employment is to be increased. I advise the Government to encourage the American system of employers and employees getting together and practising conciliation within their own organizations. The presiding judges in the Arbitration Court are adequate for all requirements. They may have made mistakes, but they have done their work to the best of their ability, and with due regard to economic facts. It is not necessary to hurden industry with additional costs. I take this opportunity to register my disapproval of the proposed section, because I consider that the appointment of conciliation commissioners is unwarranted in the present economic condition of the country.
– I propose to vote against the proposed new section, not in any spirit of factious opposition, hut because I do not think it will achieve the objective the Government has in view. The proposals made by the Leader of the Opposition, and suggestions I intend to offer, would do much more to promote peace in industry. As is usual, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) was quite reasonable in his attitude. He suggested that the commissioners would have no arbitral powers. That is not so.
– Judges will not have arbitral power, but the commissioners will.
– The judges will deal with questions affecting the minimum hours and the minimum wage. Apart from those issues the conciliation court, instead of being a tribunal for conciliation, will be much in the nature of a junior arbitration court.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Parkes accepts this view. If that is the object, and if this, proposal meets with the approval of the Government, the intention is to have, in; addition to the superior court presidedover by the arbitration judges, junior courts and junior commissioners of arbitration. This would be a mistake,
– “Would not the conciliation commissioners sit as a wages board?
– If they sit as a junior arbitration court the conciliation commissioners will not be discharging their true functions. They will be arbitrators. This is where I join issue with the Attorney-General and those members who support him on this point. If it is their wish to extend the principle of conciliation, they should not give to the chairmen of these wages boards or junior courts the right to decide questions concerning which employers and employees are at issue. The commissioners, it is true, will be stripped of the legal trappings of a court, but if the chairman is to have the power to decide in a dispute, both sides will ask for more than they expect to receive, leaving the issue to the chairman. This, as we know, is the present practice when disputants approach the Arbitration Court. Trade union secretaries or other industrial representatives ask for more than they expect to receive. Similarly, the employers make greater demands in the way of reductions in hours and wages than the court is likely to concede. In December, 1928, Mr. Garden, referring to this subject, said -
Often some of our representatives in the Arbitration Court put forward claims that they have no right to put forward. They submit ‘ claims for £10 a week when they know they will get only £5, but then they go to court and try to “ put something over.” They take advantage of any little’ point that crops up, and the employer does the same.
I am afraid that if this proposal is adopted we shall be perpetuating the> evil. I do not envy the Government its joh in appointing the commissioners, because I realize how difficult it is to get suitable men for those positions. Although I criticized the commissioners appointed by the Lang Government, I admit that since they have been acting as conciliation officers, and have been deprived of their right to veto or to decide industrial questions, they have done comparatively good work, and no complaint is now made in regard to their administration, of the conciliation courts. It is reasonable to assume that we should have the same experience with conciliation commissioners appointed under this measure. I suggest, however, that we should compel the representatives of both sides in industry to make perfectly frank statements. The employer should be required to disclose what he has put into a business, what he is getting out of it, and what the men are getting. Both sides conferring together should consider what are the prospects of expanding the industry on an economic basis. Only by methods of conciliation and compromise is it possible to reach a satisfactory agreement as to the terms upon which industry shall he continued. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that there was a tendency to overlook the interests ‘ of the general public. I agree with him. On other occasions I have instanced what has happened under the Industrial Peace Act. I suggest, however, that there will not be this tendency in future because markets are diminishing, and it is to the interests of all concerned in industry to watch carefully the developments of the immediate future. It is all very well to insist upon the maintenance of the present wage standards and to declare that there shall be no reduction. The facts are against us. Although the arbitration award for carpenters in New South “Wales is between 23s. and 24s. a day, any numbers of men are walking about looking for employment. They are prepared to work for 15s. a day, and to give their employer a written statement to the effect that they are being paid full award rates. The award rate for bricklayers is £4 103. a .thousand, and yet bricklayers will now work for £2 10s., or even £1 10s. a thousand. /
– In which State is the award for bricklayers £4 10s. a thousand ?
– In New South Wales.
– That is not true.
– Order! The honorable member for Denison must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Chairman.
– In the textile industry in Lancashire employers and employees confer with the object of deciding what wages can be paid in the industry and still meet competition on the continent. Both sides realize that unless they adopt a reasonable attitude there is a grave risk that the whole of the trade will be lost. Unfortunately, such considerations are not taken into account in this country. Employers in our secondary industries appear not to be concerned with the export, trade. They direct their attention to the home market, and so there is a tendency for employers and employees to arrange matters between themselves and allow the public to pay. But this condition of affairs is not likely to continue because of the changed economic conditions in Australia. I would be prepared to trust these committees with a conciliatory chairman, to decide what is a fair and reasonable remuneration and conditions of employment. But these junior courts should not be vested with arbitral power and the decision should not rest with the chairman for the time being. He may have a personal knowledge of a particular industry concerned and so be able to adjudicate wisely. On the other hand he may be a man who has . had no experience in industry, and his decisions may do serious harm, not only to the industries concerned, but to the workers and the Commonwealth as a whole. I strongly urge that employers and employees, the partners in industry, should be compelled to confer concerning their difficulties, and endeavour to reach a satisfactory settlement of questions in dispute.
.- 1 was interested in the expression of opinion of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill). If the honorable member will look at paragraph a of clause 13, which amends section 24 of the principal act, he will find that provision is made for the exploitation of the principle of conciliation to the extreme limit. Only when methods of conciliation fail will the arbitral powers of the commissioner become operative. The suggestion made by the honorable member does not provide the remedy for a situation which may arise when the representatives of two sides fail to agree. To that extent his conception of this jurisdiction is a very truncated one. His ideal is that the two parties to a dispute should sit around a table and come to a decision. That is a state of affairs which every one would wish to see realized, and this bill provides the means to do that. But if the measure went no further, if it went only so far as the honorable member for Warringah would like it to go, and if then the parties failed to reach an agreement, the only alternative would be industrial warfare.
Mr.White. -No; the parties could approach the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member for Warringah did not make that suggestion.
– But he implied it..
– I think I have stated accurately the views expressed by the honorable member for Warringah on this point. Apparently he conceives that industrial warfare must follow any failure to arrive at an agreement. Industrial conciliation and arbitration should prevent that state of affairs. It is objected by some that the conciliation commissioners to be appointed will be merely minor judges, and that the tribunals will be junior arbitration courts. For this reason, some honorable members argue, the appointments are entirely unnecessary. Those who take this view fail entirely to understand the nature of the criticism that has been made of the existing system of arbitration. I believe that a great mistake was made when the arbitration tribunal was described as a court, and when the person who presides over it was called a judge. So to designate the tribunal and the person who presides over it was to immediately invest the tribunal with the majesty of “the law “ and create a legal atmosphere which is undesirable. When the person who presides over the court enters the court official announces “ silence “ ! The presiding officer is robed as a judge and sits on a bench, a place ordinarily occupied by a judge. The tribunal has been in reality, and so far as appearances were concerned, a court. That has been a very grave defect in the arbitration system.
Furthermore, the pronouncements that have been delivered from time to time have been called judgments. We have also heard that a new science of law, called industrial jurisprudence, has been growing up. These appearances, these formalities, these trappings, these names that have been used, have caused the arbitration tribunal to be regarded as a court, and to act like a court. The whole institution has been permeated with and covered by legalism. That is one of the gravest objections that has been offered to the manner in which this tribunal has carried on its work in the past. The clause thatwe are now discussing proposes to make a departure from those methods. The intention is, not that the principles of industrial arbitration shall be abandoned, but that the system shall be stripped entirely of legalism. The person who presides over the tribunal is to be called a conciliation commissioner. The place in which he sits will not be called a court. He will not be surrounded by the trappings of the law. The awesomeness, the difficulties-
– The horrors.
– As the honorable gentleman says, the horrors, that are associated with the conduct of legal proceedings are to be entirely eliminated from this department of the nation’s work. I submit that the person who presides over one of these tribunals is more economist than judge. It is true that he should have an appreciation of the fundamental principles of justice, and that he should be imbued to a certain extent with legal principles. But he does not administer a system of legal jurisprudence. In the first place he is a conciliator, and in default an arbitrator. Furthermore, when the person who was appointed to preside over one of these tribunals was designated a judge, he was immediately impelled to invest himself with the dignity and pomp of a judge; to live in isolation, and in his association with his fellow beings to adopt the special manner that is regarded as necessary and proper code for a judge to observe. On this account arbitration courts have been restricted in the past from exercising the ture principles of conciliation. They have had placed in their way too many obstacles and difficulties. There has been a spirit and an atmosphere of legalism, and a separation of the parties from the president of the tribunal. All these elements have combined to produce a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs, and have prevented the complete and sympathetic operation of a true system of conciliation.
The principal duty of the conciliation commissioners who are to be appointed under this measure will be to preside over the conciliation committees for which provision has been made. They are described, not as judges, but as conciliation commissioners, and will hold in reserve the powers of an arbitrator. I submit that that is a very desirable departure from the present procedure; and I feel sure that it will prove to be a most successful experiment.
Let us consider the matter from another point of view. We know that in the States there are in force certain statutes described as arbitration acts, which are designed to settle litigious disputes by the system of arbitration rather than by recourse to the law courts. The persons who are appointed as arbitrators under the provisions of those arbitration acts are rarely judges. It is very rarely that a judge sits in that capacity. A barrister or a solicitor is not always appointed to act as an arbitrator under the provisions of those arbitration acts. Frequently, a man who is not a registered legal practitioner, but who is considered a fit and proper person to undertake the particular arbitration that is required, is appointed to sit as an arbitrator, and with the assistance of « assessors representing both sides to arrive at a determination. That is outside the orthodox legal system of the country; and it is being reproduced by the amendment that we are now discussing. These conciliation commissioners will be freed altogether from the trappings and the legalisms of the court. They will sit and hear the views of the parties to a dispute, and the whole body as a conciliation committee will explore and exploit to the full the possibilities of conciliation. Not until it is found to be entirely hopeless to arrive at a decision will the arbitral powers qf the conciliation commissioner come into action. These provisions have been attacked on the ground that the con- ciliation commissioners will not have a sufficiently long tenure. They are to be appointed for five years, and, if guilty of misconduct, can be removed at any time. They are not to be permitted to run riot. They are to be subject to control, but not political control. They will have imposed upon them a very desirable form of discipline, and if they exceed their duties their appointment can be cancelled. As honorable members know, they are not to have all the powers that formerly resided in a judge of the Arbitration Court; there will still be a residue of power residing in that court. The authority of these arbitrators will be arbitral, and not as large as that which formerly was vested in the court. Having regard to the nature of the jurisdiction, and to the fact that to make industrial arbitration survive, it is necessary that we should abandon the legalisms of the courts, I submit the amendment to the fair consideration of honorablemembers.
.. - I congratulate the Government upon theamendments it has made to its first draft of the bill. It seems to me that they remove most of the objections that were urged against it as first submitted to theHouse. The objections that I had to it were that no clear line of demarcationwas drawn between the duties of the court and those of the commissioners, and that~ it was possible for one commissioner toundo the work of the full court of threejudges. I urged that there should be oneauthority, and one only, to fix the basicwage and standard hours of the Commonwealth. That suggestion has been adopted. The functions of the conciliation* commissioners are now confined to what may fairly be termed the subsidiary questions of industry and not those likely toprovoke acute disputes. Therefore, when considering this part of the bill, we haveto remember that the questions upon which great differences of opinion arise between employer and employee are removed from the jurisdiction of these commissioners and that it is the court, and the court alone, which is to fix the basicwage and standard hours. The foundation having been made secure, the superstructure may fairly be left to the subsidiary tribunal.
I come now to the objection that these commissioners, while called conciliation commissioners, will, in effect, wield arbitral power. That is quite true and, in my opinion, entirely proper. It is of no use to go over the ground again and again. The objections that are urged against them appear to me to be entirely irrelevant. The real raison d’etre for arbitration is to deal with disputes and differences of opinion that cannot be settled between the parties.We may, therefore, brush aside all questions that can be settled by the parties, because they are not those upon which serious disputes can arise. A large number - I daresay the majority - of disputes between individuals never come before a court of law. It is those disputes that cannot be settled except by an appeal to force that are brought before the courts of law. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) spoke about the parties to a dispute meeting round a table and being “compelled” to agree. Conciliation, viewed from that angle, connotes a meaning that I certainly have never read into it. I thought that conciliation needed no compulsion; that by means of it the parties came to an agreement without being forced to do so. If they are forced to come to an agreement how can it be called conciliation ? While it is true that the parties to a dispute may come to an agreement by arguing the questions at issue, and by making those reasonable compromises that sensible men may fairly make without loss of dignity or profit, it is obvious that when the matter at issue is vital neither side can afford to come to an agreement except by force majeure. Let us assume that the question is not how much wages a man shall receive, but what price a man shall get for a commodity or what profit a man shall get from an undertaking. If the consumers and the producers sat round a table and argued about the price of a commodity, I put it to the committee that they would never agree. I submit also that if we asked employers to sit round a table with their workers and discuss with them what was a fair profit, the employers would not do so. If we asked them to submit the question to a tribunal they would not, nor do they need to do so, while society is so constituted as to enable them to obtain their profits without reference to any tribunal. The wage-earners are not in that happy position and the community, which is vitally interested in their welfare, is compelled to consider what would happen to them if, in fixing what is considered a fair wage, the parties to industry were left to their own resources. One is strong and the other is weak. One can afford to wait but the other cannot. In nine cases out of ten, when parties are left to their own devices on a major issue, it is the workers who come down. It is not that right is not on their side. Bight does not enter into the question at all. It did not enter into the issue in the great coal lockout. We are talking, not of what is right or just, but rather of what is possible or practicable. What settled the lockout was that one party was in a position to wait longer than the other. But what did it cost the community? That is the point. There is no doubt whatever that the agreement, if it can be called an agreement, which was arrived at, could have been made at the outset. I do not say that at the outset the coalminers would have accepted it; but it would have been a good thing for industry and for the coal-miners had there been a tribunal with jurisdiction to interfere in that dispute and to give a decision. It is of the essence of things that a decision should be possible.
These conciliation commissioners are now to have a very reasonable security of tenure. The reference to removal for either misconduct or misbehaviour may lead some people to believe that this places in the hands of the Minister a power that is unusual, but, of course, it is not. It applies to all judges. Judges may be removed, Ministers may be removed, in fact every office of profit under the Crown is subject to that qualification. The Attorney-General may be removed for misconduct or misbehaviour.
– In framing the amendment I have simply followed the ordinary routine.
– This power of removal applies to the judges of the High Court. It has been necessary sometimes to remove judges.
A term of five years is a reasonable tenure. I think that these tribunals will work well. At any rate the machinery lias been created by which organized labour and capital can settle their differences economically and speedily. These tribunals for all practical purposes are on all fours with the wages board system of Victoria which has been in existence for a quarter of a century or more. Under that system none of those terrible consequences which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) has -referred to has’ arisen. On the whole it is fair to say that over 90 per cent., or perhaps even more, of the determinations of the wages boards of Victoria, have been loyally observed by the parties to them, and industry has worked smoothly. The great disputes are confined to certain industries, whose circumstances arc such that discontent is the natural outcome. We have to face the fact that nothing in this world can alter human nature, and we have to do thu best we can towards the settlement of disputes. There is no alternative between arbitration and direct action. This Parliament over and over again has definitely decided in favour of arbitration. For over a quarter of a century we have adopted that principle. The platforms of every party in this Parliament provide for it. I cannot say - nor do I think any one else could say - what the platform of the Nationalist party is at this moment, but so far as I know that party still stands for compulsory arbitration. It must, therefore, come as a shock to the members of the Nationalist party that the honorable member for Warringah should denounce in this chamber a principle to which the party is committed. I am in favour of arbitration. I have always been in favour of committees rather than courts, and in its amended form I view this part of the bill with satisfaction.
– I support the amendment. Of the thirteen amendments to the Arbitration Act, the amendment with which we are now deal ing is perhaps the most far-reaching and practicable, and the most calculated to give that peace in industry which we are all trying to obtain. There has been much hostile criticism by the employers, as well as by the employees, of present methods of settling industrial questions by legal tribunals. There is no doubt that the employers welcome this amendment, which, after all, was the genesis of the arguments of the Opposition during the second reading of the bill. A conciliation committee will be much more effective than is an arbitration court composed of judges. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that this amendment practically removes the ground of the opposition to the bill at the secondreading stage. I believe that it will make possible a practical scheme, under which the representatives of the employers and the employees will, without any legal trimming such as overawe the average witness, meet in a room to settle their differences. Any points that they cannot decide will be settled by a conciliation commissioner. That will do away with the limelight of the Arbitration Court. Only 5 per cent, of the awards of the court were based on agreements between the parties, and I suggest that under the new system of conciliation, there will be many more agreements between the employers and the employees. The two parties will sit together in private and agree to some compromise. The proceedings will in that way be speeded up.
– I agree that it is desirable that the proceedings should be heard in private, but that is not provided for in the bill, although it was provided for in the Maritime Industries Bill.
– That is my conception of a conciliation committee. It will have no le«al trappings. It will lead to live conciliation, and give both sides to industry an opportunity to meet together to settle their differences. They will meet in private, without limelight and without the irksome conditions which prevail in the Arbitration Court. Out of this amendment I believe that much good will result.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) says that the amendments brought forward by the Attorney-General are the most vital and far-reaching of any of the arbitration amendments, because they provide for a certain measure of conciliation and a certain system of dealing with industrial disputesThe honorable member particularly stressed the fact that the proceedings of the conciliation committee will be heard in private instead of in public as at present. I should like to point out to honorable members and to the public generally that the amendment simply follows the precedent set by the late AttorneyGeneral in the Maritime Industries Bill, which caused such a lot of debate and opposition last -year. In that case, the proposal was that there should be appointed in the maritime industry a conciliation committee, presided over by a judge, and on which there would be representatives of both sides of industry; the proceedings of the committee not to be open to the public. I trust that that proposal, which is now being put forward under this amendment, will be incorporated in the bill.
– There is nothing in the bill to prevent that from being done.
– It is preferable to put it in the bill. If these conciliation committees are really to be effective, they need to be away altogether from the limelight which prevails under the present system. There is no question that if the advocates have to talk to the gallery, their work will be impeded. Before the Arbitration Court men make very high claims merely because they wish to keep on the right side of their own parties. But I regret that these amendments, the preparation of which necessitated the temporary withdrawal of the bill, could not have been handed to us earlier than the day on which we have been asked to proceed immediately with the consideration of them. They have been under the careful consideration of the Government for several days, and, although the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) was courteous enough to send me a copy of them, I did not receive it until I came to the chamber. Consequently, it is almost impossible to appreciate exactly their significance. It is interesting, however, to note that the discussion during the second reading and in the early part of the committee stage, has had the result of transforming clause 7, which was pregnant with discord, ill will, and all sorts of trouble, into a shape which, except for one minor point, will meet with general approval. The clauses, as originally drafted, provided that the conciliation- commissioners, who were to be practically junior judges, should have the power to reduce the standard hours of work in any industry, or increase the basic wage, or alter the principles on which it is computed, or to’ vary certain awards. That has now been altered. Under the amended form it will be necessary for the Chief Judge, and no less than two other judges, to deal with the question of altering the standard hours, or the basic wage, or the principles on which it is computed; or to vary or give an interpretation of an award where the variation or interpretation would result in any such variation, alteration, or interpretation. As was pointed out on the second reading by honorable members, including myself, if we do not make certain that the basic principle, the foundation of the whole measure of arbitration, is stable, at any rate to the degree that three judges are required to alter it, we shall have shifting sand for the foundations of the building of the subsequent structure. I, therefore, appreciate the fact that this alteration has been made. I regret that it was not in the bill as it came before us, because it would probably have led to the consideration of other amendments in a different spirit from that which was engendered by the bill as introduced. I appreciate also the proposal to be made in another clause to bring about the establishment of conciliation committees. It is a very sound proposal. It follows a suggestion which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), when he was Attorney-General last year, incorporated in the Maritime Industries Bill. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said that it brings into being what is practically the wages board system of Victoria. “We remember the debate which took place on the Maritime Industries Bill last year, and the contempt which the right honorable member had for all State systems of arbitration, and which he said rendered necessary the maintenance of the federal system. There was no chance, he suggested, of getting justice under State conditions if Federal Arbitration disappeared. It is very interesting indeed to see the change of opinion he has now expressed. I think that these conciliation committees are admirable things, hut they should be kept as conciliation committees, and the proper way to do that is to keep the chairman, if the conciliation commissioners are to be the presiding officers of these committees, from acting in a judicial capacity under other provisions of the act. Insofar as they are to be chairmen of conciliation committees, everything one can say in commendation of the principle can be said of them, but surely that is where we should leave them. It should be their work to sit as chairmen of the wages board or conciliation committees. Surely it is not necessary for them to perform all the judicial functions provided for in the circulated amendments. For instance, they are to have the powers of a judge under section 16 and section 16a, and the powers of the court or a judge under section 38 and in certain subsections mentioned in the amendments circulated. I join with, others in objecting to the persistence by the Government in a course which, in my opinion, may easily defeat the object which is being sought by setting up conciliation committees. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) has endeavoured to assure honorable members that the reason for this is not to bring about that legal atmosphere or that awesomeness of a court, which, he said, has in the past interfered very materially with the practical and satisfactory working of the arbitration system. But I suggest that where judicial functions are to be exercised they should surely be exercised by men who are legally trained, and by no others. It is all right for the chairman of a conciliation committee to be bringing into line various disputants on issues which have nothing to do with the law. But it seems to me that, in cases where there must be judicial action, judges or men who are legally trained should function. After having made changes which I very much appreciate, the Government would remove the only objection I have to the clause if it would eliminate the provision which gives the conciliation commissioners judicial power.
– I am not disposed to allow the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to misrepresent me as being opposed to arbitration.
I am in favour of arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes - an advocacy of conciliation is not inconsistent with that attitude - but I believe that arbitration should be used only in the last resort. The right honorable gentleman has said that he does not know the policy of the Nationalist party on this subject. Why should he know it when he has no sympathy with the party? But for his information I may tell him that the party is in favour of arbitration, and that arbitration for the settlement’ of industrial disputes is in its platform. I was unavoidably called out of the chamber when the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) asked what I proposed to do if conciliation committees disagreed and could not come to a decision themselves. I should refer the matter to a judge of the Arbitration Court, who, in my opinion, is better qualified to give a decision than industrial commissioners. We have to remember that the bill makes a very drastic change in our arbitration system. For the first time for 25 years in the Commonwealth, and for longer than that in the States, strikes and lockouts are legal. If a conciliation commissioner gives a decision which is not satisfactory to the employer the latter may say “I shall not open my shop “. Or the union may say “ It is no good ; we shall not go to work under it “. Therefore, the two parties must be satisfied with an award before there can be a resumption of work, and under existing economic conditions, remembering that strikes and lockouts are to-day legal, there is every prospect that the parties will themselves come to an agreement. The only difference between myself and honorable members opposite on the matter of arbitration is that I would use it only in the last resort. What I am endeavouring to do is to convince the Government to take out of the act all machinery that will prevent the various industries from settling their own difficulties, leaving it to the Arbitration Court to come in only when industries cannot do so. I am, therefore, arguing for a simplification of the system. Australia and. to a limited extent, New Zealand are the only countries in the world to-day which are relying on some one outside an industry to settle a dispute within it. Countries with equally great interests at stake will not resort to that method, and, in my opinion, we might reasonably take a leaf out of their book. Britain’s Industrial Future, which is a book compiled by men whose names are a guarantee of the research and ability they have devoted to the study of industrial matters, says -
In 1891 a Royal Commission on Industrial Relations reported that voluntary action on the part oi capital and labour in the creation of machinery for the settlement of disputes was the best line of advance, and that Government ought to assist this development by setting up a department to watch industrial issues, and to offer mediation when possible.
– That is a long time ago.
– Yes, but in 1928, when this book was published, the authors brought their views on the subject up to date and said -
It is not by conciliation after disputes have arisen, but by the practice of discussion, the gradual formulation of principles, and the growing recognition of common interests, that health will be found. When the court of last resort is constantly called into play, friction and disunity must be deep-seated; and it will be the best omen of industrial well-being when the court is scarcely needed at all.
That is what I say. The best thing for industry in this country is for the Arbitration Court not to be called into action. It is far better for an industry to settle its own difficulties. It is all very well for honorable members like the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to ridicule the suggestion, but, after all, we are striving for peace in industry. If capital and labour settle their differences themselves, and give us peace in industry, they will make the biggest contribution to the prosperity and well-being of this country that it has had for many a long day. I repeat that this end can best be achieved by removing the arbitral powers from the conciliatory commissioners and strengthening the conciliation provisions of the bill, leaving arbitration to be resorted to only when all other efforts have failed.
– I have listened carefully to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) and his answer to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in regard to the policy of the Nationalist party. His words convey to me the impression that the attitude of his party to-day is similar to what it was prior to the general election. The ideal of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is that industrial disputes should be settled without reference to the court or to any industrial tribunal. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) has spoken of the period through which this country passed prior to the introduction of compulsory arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes, and it was made clear to all honorable members that a return to the conditions obtaining then would be highly undesirable and would not be accepted by the people of this country. It is useless, therefore, to suggest at this stage that we should endeavour to bring about the settlement of disputes without the assistance of an arbitral tribunal.
– Nobody advocates that.
– The honorable member expressed the opinion that the parties to the disputes should settle them between themselves.
– Presided over by a conciliator appointed under the act.
– After all, the greater power to settle disputes rests with the employers. They have at their disposal the means of closing their factories, tying up their ships, or shutting down their mines, for an almost indefinite period. By economic pressure, they can force the workers in an industry to a point at which they may be compelled to accept almost any conditions imposed by the employers. Reference was made this afternoon by honorable members opposite to the circumstances that prevails in connexion with the employment of bricklayers, carpenters, and others at the present time, and it was pointed out that, irrespective of awards, men were now offering their services at rates far lower than those ordinarily ruling. If the workers were to be thrown into the open economic ring as is suggested by the proposal of the honorable member for Warringah, they would inevitably be left entirely at the mercy of the employers. If that is the attitude of the party opposite-
– The honorable member knows that it is not.
– One must be guided by the remarks of honorable members opposite. If the honorable member for Warringah believes that the policy he advocates should be applied particularly at a time when the circumstances are not favorable to the workers, the only inference to be drawn from his remarks is that our standard of working conditions in this country should be lowered in keeping with those of many low-wage countries with which we have to compete. But that is not the accepted policy of this country. The people have already determined that the present industrial arbitration system shall be maintained.
– Then, am I right in assuming that the commissioners will give awards higher than the economic rates?
– I think that the honorable member may assume that the commissioners will be capable of meeting the situation from a practical point of view.
– That is not an answer to my question.
– I think that it is. Recent arbitration decisions that have been given in the present legal atmosphere of the court are not such as may be expected to assist industry generally. If it were possible for the parties to a dispute to arrive at a decision between themselves without recourse to the court, advantageous results might be obtained; but it is absolutely necessary for some arbitral tribunal to decide a matter in dispute when the parties fail to arrive at an agreement. I have attended conferences between parties to industrial disputes at which it has been humanly impossible to induce them to agree. The men chosen to act as conciliation commissioners will have had practical experience of industrial conditions, and in my opinion will go a long way to solve the difficulties that arise in industry from time to time.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) does not advocate a return to the industrial conditions that obtained a generation ago, but suggests that, by the removal of the provisions relating to strikes and lockouts, the Government practically invites contending parties to resort to force. I hope that honorable members opposite will not import into the consideration of this bill a discussion on the last election campaign..
– The honorable member, I suppose, wishes to forget it.
– I desire to deal with the subject under consideration. If we are to have compulsory arbitrators the amendments submitted are a decided improvement on the existing law, because the powers of the arbitrators are to be limited. But the amendments do not cover what I regard as one of the objectionable features of the proposal, and that is the duplication of authority. We still have the Arbitration Court, and it is also proposed to give the conciliation commissioners, whom I prefer to call compulsory arbitrators, very considerable powers. The judges of the court, under section 16, have power to call upon the parties to conciliate, and, under section 38, they have arbitral powers. The commissioners are to be given all the powers of a judge in regard to conciliation, and the greater number of the powers of a judge in regard to arbitration. The result is two classes of authorities operating for the most part in the same field. When an application is made to the court is it to be submitted to a judge or to a conciliation commissioner ? I see no provision in that respect in the proposal of the Attorney-General.
– The honorable member will see that a later amendment has been circulated under which a party may ask that a matter be considered by a conciliation committee presided over by n conciliation commissioner.
– Under the present proposal, the commissioner endeavours first to bring the parties to an agreement, and, if he fails to do that, he decides the issue. I have not read the whole of the proposed amendments closely, but I have noticed no machinery for determining whether n matter shall be dealt with by the court or by commissioners, and if by commissioners, by what commissioners.
– There is a provision in that regard with respect to judges. I understand that the Chief Judge allots the work.
– I desire to know who is to allot it. No definite scheme is set out in the bill.
– No act specifies the manner in which the work of a courtis to be allotted.
– As the bill stands, two tribunals are provided for, but their respective fields of operation are not defined. I suggest that there shall be one authority only to deal with arbitration cases. It is not a workable proposition to make a person at one stage a conciliator whose idea is to promote peace and goodwill in industry, and at the next stage an arbitrator with the power of the law in his hands. It would be better to endeavour to have industrial disputes settled by promoting peace and goodwill, and, for that purpose, to appoint commissioners with experience of industrial and commercial conditions, who would have the best chance of bringing the parties to an agreement. Such men would be conciliation commissioners in the true sense; but, if the commissioners were vested with power to compel the parties to conciliate and to make an award, they would fall within a different category. Unless the commissioners are accepted by both parties, greater confusion will be brought about than has been experienced in the past. Is the business of arbitration to be dealt with by commissioners or by the Arbitration Court, or will there be an overlapping of the two authori ties?
.- I am glad that the Government has agreed to amend the bill in the direction of giving increased power in industrial matters to men who are not learned in the law. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that there was no provision in the bill under which purely legal matters could be referred by a conciliation commissioner to the judiciary, but I suggest that there is. Under section 31, sub-section 2, as proposed to be amended, a question of law may be referred to a judge. Common sense suggests that such a question should be decided only by a person with legal knowledge. Speaking on the second reading of the bill, and also this afternoon, the honorable member forWarringah (Mr. Parkhill) declared that he would force the parties to an industrial dispute into conference, and compel them to remain there until they had arrived at an agree ment. It is foolish to say that industrial disputes could be settled in that way. On two or three occasions, the honorable member said what was attributed to him by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) ; but it is gratifying to know that he did not mean what he said.
– The honorable member does not know what I meant.
– If the arbitration system is to be successful the parties to disputes must avoid, so far as possible, the technicalities of the law. The late Chief Justice of Queensland. Mr. Justice McCawley, who was also President of the State Arbitration Court, and Mr. Justice Webb, always doffed the wig and gown when appearing in arbitration jurisdiction. Mr. Justice McCawley said on one occasion that he felt that the wearing of the legal garb had an unfortunate psychological effect upon the parties in arbitration cases.
Everybody who has been closely associated with industrial matters must realize that representative employers and employees are more likely to reach a satisfactory agreement in industrial disputes than a judge who can, at the best, have only a theoretical knowledge of industry. The provision that the proposed conciliation commissioners shall exercise arbitration as well as conciliation power is wise. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifiey), that a public court is not the best place in which to consider industrial matters; a private room is a far better place for the purpose.
– When the last Arbitration Bill was under consideration quite a different opinion was expressed by the members of the Labour party.
– The circumstances at that time were quite different from those which at present obtain. It was then proposed to continue the penal provisions of the act, and that had the tendency to antagonize parties. The person who hears the evidence in industrial disputes should make the award. The industrial magistrates of Queensland who. in their police court jurisdiction, have the power to try cases involving claims for as much as £200 damages, are prevented by law from determining industrial disputes. If no agreement can be reached in such cases, the evidence must be forwarded to the Industrial Court, where it is considered by a judge, who without the advantage of actually hearing the witnesses or forming a judgment upon their demeanour, makes the award. The cold minutes of evidence alone are a poor basis for the determination of an industrial dispute. By empowering conciliation commissioners to determine these matters the Government will do a great deal to achieve industrial peace. The commissioners will be sensible men, well qualified to weigh evidence and pass judgment upon it. Although honorable members opposite have accused the New South Wales Government of appointing a “pug” as an industrial arbitrator, I assert without fear of truthful contradiction that, speaking generally, the persons appointed to deal with industrial matters in Australia have been well qualified to discharge their duties. I participated some time ago in New South Wales in the hearing of a complex and difficult industrial dispute. It was said that we would never reach a satisfactory settlement, hut we did so. As a matter of fact, the award covering the sugar-cane workers in New South Wales made at Maclean contained some provisions which were a distinct improvement upon the conditions granted by the Queensland arbitration tribunals. We were only able to reach that agreement because Mr. Reid, the chairman, used his power to exercise a casting vote. These conciliation commissioners will he able, by using their casting vote, to settle quickly many disputes that otherwise might assume serious proportions. The Government will exercise a wise discretion in making these appointments. There are representative employees well qualified to discharge these duties, and there are also many representative employers who recognize that the toilers have the right to a decent living and a decent wage. By agreeing to this clause honorable members will assist the Government to do a great deal for the benefit of industry generally in Australia.
.- Owing to the debate on the second read ing of this bill ending earlier than was anticipated I had not the opportunity to participate in it; but I am glad now to express my appreciation of the attitude that has been adopted by the Government in regard to the measure. Some of the amendments the Attorney-General has tabled to-day are far-reaching; but to a large extent they meet the objections offered to the biU by honorable members on this side of the committee. The spirit that has been adopted in dealing with the measure has been praiseworthy. I appreciate the conciliatory attitude displayed by the Leader of the Opposition, and the readiness of the Attorney-General to endeavour to meet the objections of honorable members generally to certain provisions in the bill. This suggests that the allegedly unlucky thirteenth amendment of the measure may be the most satisfactory of all. Honorable members on all sides of the chamber are in agreement upon many of the main principles of the bill. They endorse, for instance, the desirableness of eliminating legalism from the court. It is also generally agreed that it is desirable to facilitate the hearing of disputes. The abolition of the penal provisions of the act is also satisfactory, for the penalties were futile. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said something about the legalizing of strikes and lockouts; but in the last resort both employers and employees must be given freedom of action. It is ridiculous to try to compel a business man or a manufacturer to carry on a business in which he is losing money. On the other hand, it is wrong, in my opinion, to deny the workers, individually or collectively, the right to refuse to work under conditions which are not acceptable to them. Such matters must be settled, finally, by public opinion. That is the tribunal before which both capital and labour must ultimately appear. I believe that this bill will do a good deal to overcome many of the complicated and knotty problems which have arisen in our industrial relations. I approve of the proposal to appoint conciliation commissioners.
.- I do not propose to follow the example of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Beasley) in seeking to discuss what are supposed to be the general principles of various political parties in relation to arbitration, for we are now at the committee stage of the bill and should bend all our energies to the task of making the measure as perfect as possible. I have two amendments to this clause which I hope the AttorneyGeneral will accept. The first, which I now move, is -
That after the word “Act”, sub-section 7 of proposed new section 18c, the words “ such powers to be exercised under, the direction of the Chief Judge” be inserted.
Later, I propose to move that in proposed new sub-section 8 the words “ in relation to any dispute assigned to him by the Chief Judge” be inserted after the word “ act,” first occurring. My object is to ensure that the conciliation commissioners shall act under the direction of the Chief Judge only in relation to disputes assigned to them by him. This is necessary if the work of the court is to be kept in order. A later provision of the act provides that a judge may exercise any of his powers on his own motion, and it is proposed to amend that section to make it apply also to conciliation commissioners; but it is a tradition of the court that the Chief Judge shall determine the order of business and assign definite work to definite judges. I desire to see the same rule applied to conciliation commissioners, otherwise the work of the court cannot be organized. It is undesirable in my opinion that we should have two conciliation commissioners dealing with the same case by way of either conciliation or arbitration. The effect of my amendments/ if agreed to, would be that the Chief Judge would direct one commissioner to deal with, say, waterside workers, another with fruitpickers, and so on. There must be some method provided of dealing with both the conciliation and arbitration work of these commissioners. I am afraid that with the appointment of a number of laymen as conciliation commissioners there will be risk of overlapping - of the same matter being dealt with by a number of persons possessing identical jurisdiction. I cannot understand how there can be any objection to my amendment, and I ask the Attorney-General to accept it.
– The clause now before the committee provides that a conciliation commissioner shall possess all the power which is conferred upon a court or a judge under sections 16 and 16a of the act. The amendment which has been moved proposes to add the words, “such powers to be exercised under the direction of the Chief Judge.” I do not agree that such an amendment is desirable. As I said in my second-reading speech, in cases in which the functions of the commissioners are not clearly defined, one would naturally expect the Chief Judge to decide the order of business as is done in connexion with all courts at the present time. In such courts, the Chief Judge assigns the cases to particular judges. Usually, I presume, the matter is arranged according to the convenience of the parties concerned. Certain judges take circuit work in turn, and other classes of work in turn. It is a matter of mutual arrangement under the direction of the Chief Judge. I expect that, insofar as the functions of the commissioners are not clearly defined under this bill as being personal to a commissioner, they will be carried out subject to arrangements mutually arrived at between the judges and the commissioners. In that regard, the views of the Chief Judge will naturally be respected. I do not think that it is desirable to put in the statute a direction which might hamper the discretion of the judges or of the court. I do not propose to accept the amendment.
Amendment of amendment negatived.
.- T move -
That after the word “Act,” first occurring, sub-section 8 of proposed new section 18c, the words “in relation to any dispute assigned to him by the Chief Judge” be inserted.
The Attorney-General, when speaking to the last amendment, did not answer any of the arguments which I adduced in its support. He said that doubtless the ordinary practice of the courts would be followed, and the Chief Judge would assign the work; but he objected to any such direction being placed in the statute, because, he said, it might trammel the discretion of the judges. Section 39 of the bill, as it is proposed to be amended, confers full power upon a conciliation commissioner to exercise any of his powers on his own motion. Although I am offering suggestions for the improvement of this clause, I wish it to be understood that I am opposed to the clause itself. If it becomes law, I trust that the conciliation commissioners who will be appointed will be sensible men, but the act ought to guard against the possible stupidity, foolishness or obstinacy of an appointee upsetting the administration of the arbitration system.
– A foolish or obstinate man ought to be removed under the powers conferred in the act.
– Such things are easier said than done. Let us consider what might happen in the case of an interstate dispute affecting, say, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. There may be a conciliation commissioner in each State, or perhaps in two of the three States. It is very important that one interstate dispute should be dealt with by, and under the hand of, one man, and one only. There is power to use all the agencies of the court as they are used to-day; that is, the deputy registrars and i he like; but the whole dispute should be finally dealt with by a single authority. Having regard to the overlapping of industries, to the great area of the Commonwealth, and the continental distances which separate our chief industrial centres, it is very important that some control should be exercised as to the disputes in which the commissioners are to adjudicate. My previous amendment dealt with the powers of the commissioners in conciliation, but this one deals with their powers to arbitrate, and the objections urged by the Attorney-General to the first amendment cannot be said to apply to the second. I urge upon honorable members to consider, from a practical point of view, the possible effect of allowing a number of commissioners and judges loose on the Commonwealth to deal with any industrial dispute they think proper. Any one with any knowledge of the working of the Arbitration Court knows that one of its great difficulties has been to divide up industry in a suitable way. Many honorable members opposite are intimately acquainted with the difficulties which have arisen over industrial and craft unions. Up to the present, although such difficulties have been encountered, jurisdiction has been exercised by three or four judges acting in close concert, and they have tried to avoid overlapping as much as possible. Con sider, however, the position of a conciliation commissioner who, with the best will in the world, gets into a jam-maker’s dispute, and finds before he is through, that he has to deal with carpenters and other classes of workers as well. It is only right, I contend, that some one should have the right to say which commissioner shall take any particular case. Unless provision for this exists, it seems to me that we run a grave risk of creating confusion - a risk which could be readily avoided if this amendment were accepted. The amendment cannot limit the discretion of any judge or conciliation commissioner. It merely seeks to make a business-like arrangement to avoid the possibility of inconsistent or defective awards being made, not as now, as between State and Federal tribunals, but as between two Federal tribunals.
– The powers of commissioners under the bill are limited in certain defined ways. In certain cases powers which might otherwise be exercised by them are reserved for a full Bench of judges of the Arbitration Court. In other cases, questions of law and the imposition of penalties are reserved for judicial interpretation. In other respects it has been sought to place judges and conciliation commissioners on equal terms so far as their arbitral functions are concerned. We do not propose to place within the four corners of this statute any direction from Parliament to the judges to direct, in their turn, the conciliation commissioners as to the disputes with which they shall concern themselves. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has rightly pointed out that if the executive showed such extraordinary bad judgment or bad faith as to appoint stupid, foolish or obstinate commissioners, serious complications and difficulties might arise. My answer is that if one presupposes similarly unfortunate appointments to the judiciary, endless trouble could be created on the Bench through the pursuance of a catchascatchcan policy by the judges in regard to the order of business, and a perpetual wrangling as to who should handle certain cases. I refuse to presuppose any such situation in regard to appointees of this or of any succeeding administration.
The best course to pursue is to leave the allocation of work either to mutual arrangement by the judges and commissioners or possibly to determination by regulations to be issued under this act. We certainly do not propose that the Chief Judge should be authorized by Parliament to direct the commissioners as to the limits of their jurisdiction. That would be practicallyan invitation by Parliament to the Chief J ustice to decline, if ho thought fit, to allow the commissioners to exercise any jurisdiction at all, a situation which would be very undesirable, and opposed to the spirit of the bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) provides that the Chief Judge shall have power to allocate the work of the conciliation commissioners. Despite the exceptions to which the Minister referred, these commissioners are to have very great powers. They cannot determine the basic wage or standard working hours, but they will have power to deal with a margin of skill as well as a number of other important matters of profound interest, which have a very important bearing upon industry. All that the amendment provides is that there shall be some order as to the way in which the conciliation commissioners shall carry out their work instead of each being permitted to take up whatever case he may desire. As they have power to initiate inquiries themselves, this aspect of the question is of importance. There should be some semblance of order in the way in which the work of the court is handled, and the work of the commissioners should not overlap. Allwe wish to provide is that the commissioners’ work shall be allotted to them by some one in authority.
– Their work will be arranged by the Attorney-General.
Mr. ARCHDALEPARKHILL.There is nothing to that effect in the bill. The Attorney-General has pointed out that the judges arrange their own duties in a satisfactory way. That works well, because it has always been the practice for a chief justice to arrange the duties of the other judges. We wish to provide t hat the work of the commissioners, which is very important, shall be properly arranged, and undertaken in an orderly way, and that there shall be no overlapping or confusion.
.- On a previous occasion I directed attention to the necessity of providing some scheme under which the work of the conciliation commissioners should be arranged, and asked who would be in control of the business of the court. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) then said, by interjection, that that would be done by the Chief Judge. If that is so the Minister should accept this amendment. Somebody must be in charge. I understand that conciliation commissioners will be appointed in various parts of the country to deal with specific trades, and it cannot be contended that every commissioner will be equally competent to deal with every dispute which may arise. In these circumstances it is important that some authority should determine how the work is to be allocated, and the order to be observed. I trust the Minister will accept the amendment.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) which is to provide that the work of conciliation commissioners shall be assigned to them by some authority. On a previous occasion I pointed out that the appointment of conciliation commissioners will lead to a good deal of unnecessary expense and will result in increasing the number of public servants at a time when the country can ill afford to meet the cost of additional appointments. If inquiries were made from those who are closely associated with industry I think it would be found that there is no urgent need for such appointments. In replying to the honorable member for Warringah, the Assistant Minister for Industry (Mr. Beasley) displayed a good deal of heat, and I think disclosed a partisan attitude, of mind. This matter has been discussed by the committee in a dispassionate way, but the Assistant Minister, in objecting to certain criticisms, clearly showed that he is actuated by bias. He cannot be other than biased, because he and other honorable members opposite have been associated with industry only on the secretarial side of unionism. If we were to obtain the opinions of large or small employers of labour as to whether conciliation commissioners should be appointed, I think it would be found that there is no general desire for the appointment of such officials. All that is required by both sections is peace in industry. The employers are anxious that industry shall continue smoothly, and the employees want steady work. The present Government came into power last year because the Bruce-Page Government attempted to amend the Arbitration Act in certain directions. The Government says that it has a mandate from the people; but I most emphatically submit that it has not a mandate to do what it likes in this respect. Prior to the last general election the Government did not say that it intended to appoint conciliation commissioners with powers such as are provided in this measure.
– We said we would simplify the Arbitration Act.
– The Government is doing more than that. The effect of this measure will be to harass more than at present manufacturers and all those engaged in industry. They are, however, only a section of the community, and those whom they employ represent the supporters of the present Government. For the information of the committee I will quote the following opinion of the President of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures in regard to conciliation commissioners : -
It will bc recognized that the need in establishing harmonious relations between employers and employees is that they shall be brought together in a spirit of mutual confidence.
That is what the Government claims to be doing; but are they? They do not state specifically who can be conciliation commissioners and who can not. If the extremists on the other side were listened to, those appointed might be men who are the stormy petrels in the Labour movement. On the other hand, if other counsels were listened to, they might even be employers, as suggested Dy the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley), who spoke sanely and reasonably. We do not, however, know the Government’s intention in this regard. The extract continues -
Under the guise of conciliation, the Ministry proposes that commissioners shall be given power to deal’ with disputes or threatened disputes between parties. All that the bill does is to enable so-called conciliation commissioners to be substituted for the judges of the court. The appointments that it is proposed to make would be those of arbitrators, and not of conciliators. But who are to be the so-called conciliation commissioners? Will they be any more competent to handle industrial matters than the judges who now comprise the court?
The question arises whether it would not be better to retain the arbitration of highly educated men trained in analysing problems than to risk the appointment of biased laymen. Certainly some reform in the present procedure is needed. That reform should, however, conform more to employers and employees meeting around the table with, if needs be, a judge as arbitrator.
I support the amendment because unless it is adopted the conciliation commissioners to be appointed may be the means of harassing those conducting industry. The employers represent capital, the men engaged in industry represent labour, and honorable members opposite who are supporting the clause are really the middlemen. They are not employers or employees, but are endeavouring to foist upon industry something that is not required by it. If conciliation commissioners are to be appointed they should have definite instructions from the Arbitration Court to deal only with the work assigned to them. They should not have a free hand to initiate inquiries or to undertake only such work as they choose.
.- I appeal to the Minister to explain to the committee how the separate branches of arbitration are to function. I understand that all cases are to commence in conciliation, but that in the event of conciliation failing the commissioner is to have the power to arbitrate. If that is so, what are the judges of the court. to do? Why appoint the judges and keep up this sham? Are they only to settle the basic wage and fix standard hours?
– That is not so.
– Is it not a fact that the bill as it is at present drafted provides that all cases will start under a system of conciliation before the conciliation commissioners will have power” to arbitrate, and that they are to arbitrate in the event of an agreement by conciliation not being reached? Therefore, all cases will be settled by a conciliation commis- sioner either as a conciliator or as an arbitrator. No case will go on to the judges of the court in an unfinished state. Surely it is not contemplated that we are to have three highsalaried judges to decide once a year, or less frequently, the standard of hours and the basic wage. As the clause stands it is suspect. It looks as if we are providing that the judges, as arbitrators, shall not deal with the ordinary cases which come before the court. . I appeal to the Attorney-General to clear this matter up. Are the conciliation commissioners to arbitrate in every case that comes before the court, and, if so, what are the judges of the Arbitration Court to do? Are they to be high-salaried passengers ? This clause is not honest, because it provides for passing over the whole of the work of the court to conciliation commissioners, either as conciliators or as arbitrators. In either case it is entirely and decisively taking out of the hands of the present judges or any judges who may be appointed to succeed them, the work which they are at present performing. This is a matter of first-class importance and involves points which I trust the Minister will explain. If the Attorney-General is not disposed to enlighten us, perhaps the Assistant Minister (Mr. Beasley), may be able to do so. If it is the Government’s intention to get rid of the Arbitration Court judges, let the Attorney-General tell us and we shall know what to expect. There should be in the bill some provision, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, to allocate the original work between the judges and the conciliation commissioners. If there is not to he this division ,of work, the judges, apparently, will be without occupation from this time forward.
– Who appointed them?
– They were appointed with the full concurrence of every member of the honorable member’s party.
– I should very much like the Attorney-General to clear up the points which have been raised. If he is not prepared to do this, honorable members on this side cannot accept the proposal in its present form.
Mr. BRENNAN (Batman- Attorney- to the clause, so far as its provisions relate to the powers of the conciliation commissioners. Therefore, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) does me less than justice when he says that I have not indicated what their functions are to be. I repeat that they are to have complete arbitral powers, equivalent to those exercised by a judge. That, I think, clears up any doubt that existed in the mind of the honorable gentleman. The honorable member was dealing, I submit with great respect, with the functions of conciliation committees, which we shall discuss in a later clause of the bill. The question then will more properly arise, whether or not it is correct to say that the judges are to be denuded of their responsible duties as judges of this court. It would appear, from the language of the clause, that the judges may deal with ordinary arbitration matters as at present or, at the request of one of the parties, allow the questions at issue to go first to conciliation. We are inserting this provision entirely in deference to the strong demands made by honorable members on both sides, in order to try out to its utmost the policy of conciliation as generally understood, and as applied in connexion with wages hoards and other tribunals of that character. I, therefore, suggest to the honorable gentleman, that we may more effectively debate the aspect of the bill which he has raised when we are considering the clause dealing with the appointment of conciliation committees.
.- There have been so many amendments to the clause that I was in doubt about its real meaning until the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) spoke. At first I was inclined to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), hut I now find that, if the clause is allowed to stand, it will sound the death knell of the Arbitration Court. That is entirely in accordance with my own. wishes. Consequently I shall not support this amendment, because I wish the work of the court to he ended. In the circumstances I am surprised that the Attorney-General did not accept it. The gentlemen to be appointed as conciliation commissioners will hold office for a maximum period of five years, whereas judges of the Arbitration Court are appointed for life.
– The term is altogether too long.
– I agree with the honorable member. I consider even five years is too long a tenure of office. However if these conciliation commissioners are to be invested with all the powers of the judges of tha Arbitration Court, and if the Chief Judge of the court will not have authority to allocate ruses to them, it appears to me that the conciliation commissioners will displace entirely our Federal Arbitration Court judges, who then will become supernumeraries. If the Attorney-General desires to do away with the judges, I am heartily in agreement with him, and probably for the first time since I have been a member of this House I shall support him in rejecting an amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- The Attorney-General was asked to say what would be the division of work between the judges of the Arbitration Court and tlie conciliation commissioners. In reply the Minister told us that the commissioners would have all the power of the judges. Every honorable member knows that, because it is specifically provided for in this clause, so the reply of the Minister gave no information. He referred honorable members to a later clause which deals with the appointment of conciliation committees. I again ask the honorable gentleman what will be the procedure? Who will decide which tribunal shall hear and determine applications, and who will decide which questions shall go before the conciliation commissioners, and what applications shall go before the Arbitration Court judges? There is no excuse for the AttorneyGeneral’s refusal to supply the information. His attempt to dodge it was too palpable to bluff any honorable member. Again I ask him what is to be the division of the work between the judges
Mild the conciliation commissioners?
– I am amazed at the reluctance of the AttorneyGeneral to tell us what this clause means, and how the business of the court is to be allocated. His unwillingness makes the whole provision suspect. One can only conclude, as I said just now, that in providing for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, the Government intends to do away altogether with the present Arbitration Court judges. If this is the purpose, surely we are entitled to know. Why postpone this explanation until the committee is discussing a later provision in the bill? I expect we shall then have agreed to this clause. It is apparent that, as the conciliation commissioners will have arbitral powers, there will be no work for our arbitration judges to do. It has been suggested also that in making the appointments, the Government will select persons whose views on industrial matters are well known. This might not be desirable, but I hope the Government is not too ashamed to admit, it. Surely the Attorney-General can tell us how this allimportant court, which is expected to work such miracles, is going to function? I am at a loss to understand the reason for the extraordinary shyness and diffidence that has overtaken the honorable gentleman. In the circumstances need he be surprised if we view this proposal with suspicion? I fully believe that the Attorney-General did not know much about his bill when he introduced it, but be has been away with it for a week now, and I have no doubt he knows what this provision means. Honorable members on this side are entitled to know what is in the mind of the Government in regard to this matter.
Amendment of amendment negatived.
.- There is another amendment which should be considered by the AttorneyGeneral. The clause provides that air award of a conciliation commissioner, or an order made by him, shall be final, conclusive, and without appeal. I take it that although the conciliation commissioners are to be invested with all the powers of an arbitration judge, they are really not to have the same standing and status in all respects as judges of the court; but rather are to be subordinate officers of the court. There is already an officer of the court, the industrial registrar, who decides a number of important matters; as, for example, applications for the registration of an organization, and questions relating 10 the rules of organizations. Section 17 of the act provides -
The court may review, annul, rescind or vary any act or decision of the Registrar in any manner which it thinks fit.
Any award or order made by » conciliation commissioner pursuant to the power conferred by this section shall for all purposes be and be deemed to be an award or order of the court.
Under section 31, the act provides -
The object of section 31 is to confine to the industrial jurisdiction the decision of industrial matters, subject to the provision in the following sub-section with respect to the statement of a case on a question of law. If the amendment proposed by the Attorney-General is carried in its present form, an award or order made by a conciliation commissioner will in all respects be as final as an award or order made by a single judge or by the full court. It is important that, in arbitral jurisdiction, the position of a conciliation commissioner shall be made subordinate to that of the judges.
– Does that mean that there shall be an appeal to three judges?
– To a judge.
– It may be made to three judges.
– It will be entirely a matter for the court to determine whether it is desirable that appeals or applications for review shall he heard by three judges. At the present time, the decision of the Registrar is reviewed by a single judge. The matter would be more complicated, and there would bc further delay, if it were necessary for appeals to be hoard by three judges.
– Judicial questions will still have to be decided by judges.
– I am not dealing with judicial matters, which, throughout the consideration of this act, are almost negligible, consisting of the power to impose penalties - a power that is being minimized - and the power to interpret awards. I have in mind an ordinary dispute, in which an award or an order has been made in the customary way.
– The interpretation of awards is an important function.
– I agree that it is important. The honorable member, however, must know from his experience that in practice the interpretation of awards is not so important a function as it might appear to one who reads the act without an acquaintance with actual practice. Any difficulty that may arise is so easily dealt with by’ the variation of the order that the power of interpretation is hecoming less and less important. I am directing attention to the ordinary arbitration powers of the court. I ask the committee to consider whether, if these ‘ conciliation commissioners are given full arbitration powers, it is not desirable that, their awards and orders shall occupy a position similar to that of an award or order of a judge. I admit that the matter is arguable. I can appreciate the views of those honorable members who say, Awc want to diminish appeals”. Speaking generally, I have been opposed to appeals in industrial matters, and in favour of the greatest possible simplification of the procedure. But a possible result qf this amendment is the appointment of a number of conciliation commissioners who will operate separately, with the risk of a lack of co-ordination in the awards of the court. Honorable members who are familiar with industrial matters will know that in industrial jurisdiction one of the things to be avoided is uncertainty in regard to the effective application of an award. In order to avoid uncertainty, overlapping, and conflict between the awards of the same tribunal, a fairly watchful eye must be kept upon the whole of the work of the court. It may he said that, if my suggestion is adopted, there will be an appeal in every case, with consequent delay, confusion and complication. That I do not anticipate. I am not proposing that there shall be any power to hold up an award by appealing against it; the award, when made by the conciliation commissioner, would be operative and effective until altered, if it were altered, upon review by the judge.
Having regard to the ordinary practice of the court, I do not believe that the number of reviews will be very great ; applications for review would be made only where the matter was of importance to one side or the other in the industry concerned. No object would be gained by making it a regular practice to apply for a review; because, as I have already said, the award or order of the conciliation commissioner would be operative and effective notwithstanding any application for review. The suggestion that I make is that the words that appear in sub-section 2 of section 17 of the act be added as a proviso to the proposed new sub-section 9: It appears to me that that would be a useful power to give to the court. I propose to leave the procedure to the court itself. In practice, it has not been found that the right conferred by sub-section 2 of section 17, to obtain a review of the decision of the Registrar, has led to unjustifiable appeals. Application for a review is made only when there is some real difference of opinion between the parties, and it is desired to obtain the decision of a judge. Accordingly, I move-
That the following words be added to the sub-section 9 of proposed section 18c : - “Provided that any such order or award . may be reviewed, annulled, rescinded or varied by the court in any manner which the court thinks fit.”
. -Because of his acquaintance with the general scheme of the measure, the honorable gentleman will not be surprised when I say that the Government cannot accept the amendment that he has proposed, which really involves the capacity and integrity of the conciliation commissioners.
– It does not affect their integrity at all.
– Their integrity is involved. The suggestion is that the person to whom will be committed the responsible duties of acting as a conciliation commissioner will be expected, under certain circumstances, to make awards not subject to appeal or review. We do not agree for a moment that, at least under the present Administration - and, I should hope, also under any succeeding administration - danger is to be apprehended of appointments of that kind being made.
We wish to discourage appeals. A little later the committee will consider the provisions relating to the appointment of conciliation committees and their functions. It will then be seen that we are encouraging disputants to go before those conciliation committees. In cases in which there is radical disagreement - as, for example, when a conciliation commissioner disagrees with both employers on the one side, and employees on the other - special provisions will apply. But in other cases, where the commissioner holds a view that is in harmony with the view held by one side in the dispute, he is given the power - and we think that he should have it - to close the matter by making an award, subject always to the right of the parties to apply for the variation of any such award. We do not consider that the procedure should be any more fluid on the one hand or complicated on the other. We hope to satisfy the community generally, my honorable friend included, that if and when appointments are made, they will evoke such general respect because of their speedy and satisfactory handling of industrial disputes, that the criticism which has been levelled at them by honorable members opposite will be proved to have been quite unfounded.
.- At times I have been quite prepared to concede the fact that an argument that I have submitted in this chamber has been effectively answered, either in whole or in part ; but I am unable to extend that admission to include the present occasion.
– I have never yet been so fortunate as to satisfy the honorable gentleman in that way.
– Although it may surprise the Attorney-General, I assure him that that has happened. I rose only to call attention to the lengths to which the honorable gentleman was obliged to go, apparently on the spur of the moment, in an endeavour to answer my argument. I would not do him the discredit of supposing that he had thought out in advance what he intended to say, because he actually stated that my suggestion that there should be provision for reviewing the decision of conciliation commissioners, cast a doubt on the integrity of those gentlemen. I ask the committee to consider whether that is an argument that can worthily be addressed to such an assemblage as this. The existing act provides that every decision of the Registrar may be reviewed by a judge. That is certainly not a reflection upon the integrity of the Registrar. The Supreme Court Act in each of the States provides that decisions of single judges may be subject to appeal to the Full Court. Is that a reflection upon the integrity of the single judges, who, by the way, themselves constitute a Full Court? The suggestion does little credit to the intelligence of the AttorneyGeneral, and, indeed, its submission to the committee does little credit to his idea of the intelligence of honorable members. My suggestion that the decision of the conciliation commissioner should be reviewed casts no reflection at all upon his integrity. With the complete and obvious failure of that argument the Attorney-General is left with but little material on which to frame his reply to the suggestion that I have made. I concede that there may be room for difference of opinion, on the ground that it is not desirable to have many appeals in industrial matters, but I have pointed out that there is already in the act a provision for the review of the decision of the Registrar as a subordinate officer of the court. That power has not been abused ; and I consider that the conciliation commissioners ought to be in a position of relatively subordinate officers, and should not be placed on the same footing as the judges. It is for that reason that I have moved the amendment.
.- The more the Attorney-General explained his objection to the amendment, the more difficult it became for honorable members to follow him.
– I shall abstain from making explanations in the future.
– When the previous clause was under discussion the AttorneyGeneral definitely abstained from making an explanation when one was particularly required. But on this occasion he has gone to some length in making an explanation, the only result of which has been to obscure further the intention of the clause. He has informed the committee that it is intended to encourage these conciliation committees, and that he hopes that every dispute will, in the first place, be referred to a conciliation commissioner. A provision for the appointment of conciliation committees has existed in the act for years.
– The Chief Judge has never appointed a conciliation committee.
– That provision has been a dead-letter. It has never been put to use. Honorable members supporting the Government have told us that, when this bill is passed, industrial disputes will be referred to practical men who have a thorough knowledge of the industry, men who will be able to settle disputes on the spot. That statement certainly does not fit in with the statement of the Attorney-General that every question in dispute will, in the first place, be submitted to conciliation committees. The Attorney-General has not attempted to make anything like a fair and reasonable explanation ofthe new arbitration system. We do not know who is to take charge - the judge or the conciliation commissioner. That information should be given to the committee before this clause is agreed to.
.- Under the proposed system of arbitration the conciliation commissioners are to function, but under the old system, although provision was made in the act for their appointment, it was never given effect.
– This clause deals, not with conciliation committees, but with conciliation commissioners.
– It is the same thing. These committees were never given a chance to function under the act.
– Mr. Stewart, the Registrar, functioned as a conciliator.
– A similar provision was inserted in the Industrial Peace Act, and the miners’ organization was told that local commissioners would be appointed.
– There were no conciliation commissioners under the Industrial Peace Act.
– I attended half a dozen deputations to the late Prime Minister, asking for the appointment of an industrial committee, but none was appointed. This clause definitely provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners. Under the act their appointment depended solely on the judges of the court.
.- The clause has certainly been improved by the insertion in it of a number of amendments which were originally suggested by the Opposition, and I congratulate the Government on accepting those suggestions. At the same time, the clause still provides for arbitral powers to be exercised by conciliation commissioners. They will, therefore, have exactly the same status, powers and functions as the judges in all industrial matters. That is an objectionable feature of the clause, and, for the reason that I have already stated, I propose to vote against the clause.
Amendment of amendment negatived.
Amendment (Mr. Brennan’s) agreed to.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Section twenty of the principal act is amended -
by inserting after the word “court” (first occurring), the words “or a conciliation commissioner”;
by inserting after the word “court” (second occurring) the words “or a commissioner”; and
by inserting after the word “court” (wherever elsewhere occurring) the words “ or the commissioner “.
Section proposed to be amended.
– (1.)If it appears to the court that any State industrial authority is dealing or about to deal with an industrial dispute, with part of anindustrial dispute or with a matter which is provided for in an award of the court or is the subject of proceedings before the court, the court may make such order restraining the State industrial authority from dealing with that dispute or any part thereof, or with that matter, as the court thinks fit, and thereupon the authority shall, in accordance with that order, cease to proceed in the dispute or part thereof or in that matter.
.- This clause seeks to amend section 20, which provides that if the court believes that any State authority is dealing or about to deal with an industrial dispute, with part of an industrial dispute or with a matter which is provided for in an award of the court or is the subject of proceedings before the court, it may restrain that State industrial authority from dealing with the dispute, and, as I understand it, proposes to give this power also to conciliation commissioners. I can quite realize ; that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should be given the power to prevent a State court from interfering with a dispute likely to come before the Federal Court, in order to prevent the overlapping or duplication of awards. But I cannot see why conciliation commissioners should be given equal powers with the judges in this respect. Circumstances may arise which will justify the court in taking steps to restrict State authorities, but my argument is that the right to do so should be reserved to judges. Honorable members opposite have repeatedly said that honorable members of the Opposition have no idea what type of men are likely to be appointed as conciliation commissioners, but the fact remains that under section 20 as now proposed to be amended inexperienced men in the capacity of conciliation commissioners may be in a position to prevent a State court from dealing with a dispute of a local nature. Section 13 of the act provides that the qualifications of the Chief Judge and of each of the other judges of the Arbitration Court shall be -
He must be a barrister or solicitor of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of the State of not less than five years’ standing.
So far as I can see from- an examination of the bill, there is no suggestion as to any qualification being required of conciliation commissioners - it is an important omission- yet, according to this bill, they are to enjoy almost all the powers of a judge. It is only reasonable that the concurrence of a judge of the Arbitration Court shall be required before a conciliation commissioner can proceed to interfere with a State authority. A suggestion has been made during the debate this evening that there is an inclination on the part of the Government to make these conciliation commissioners the sole authority in arbitration, that the Government’s idea is to gradually replace the judges of the Arbitration Court by conciliation commissioners. The amendment I am about to move should, to some extent, remove from the minds of honorable members the suspicion that the main object of the bill is to place the control of industry in the hands of trade union officials. I move -
That the following paragraph be inserted after paragraph (b) : - “ (bb) by inserting before the words ‘may make such order ‘ the words with the sanction of a judge’.”
The effect of my amendment is to require that a State authority, should it be dealing with a local dispute, may do so unless a judge of the Arbitration Court decides that it is inadvisable for it to do so.
– I quite admit that the clause is one that needs careful consideration, but I am not so sure that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), judging by the observations he has just made, has examined it in all its implications, and I direct his attention to a few of its features. It relates toa case where the court or a conciliation commissioner is dealing with an industrial dispute which, as the honorable, member knows, is a dispute extending beyond the limits of one State. It is, therefore, a dispute which, from its very nature, cannot be comprehensively or effectively dealt with by any State tribunal; and although the section goes on to say, “with part of an industrial dispute “, the same argument applies. Although a State authority may be taking hold of a section of an interstate dispute it can only deal with it piecemeal, that is to say, only to the extent to which it affects the one State. I remind the honorable member that it is very desirable to adopt the clause as it stands, because the main object of section 20 is to prevent overlapping. The question that remains is the specific point to which the honorable member directs attention, whether this function for some special reason should not be performed by a conciliation commissioner alone. My only reply is that I have tried somewhat steadfastly to uphold the status of the conciliation commissioners proposed to be appointed as being men capable of doing their job. If they are, then they are capable of determining whether’ a dispute is an interstate dispute or not. They may not have to determine even that because it will probably have been a judicial function elsewhere determined. If a dispute is an interstate dispute, I suggest to my friend, as a matter of principle, that it is a proper thing to be dealt with by a Commonwealth court to prevent as far as possible, confusion and overlapping. I remember, and perhaps it is just as well to confess it, because the Leader of the Opposition has a long memory, that on another occasion I criticized section 20 on the ground that it was a little wide. I considered that the, words “If it appears to the court that any State industrial authority is dealing, or about to deal, with an industrial dispute “ were open to criticism, and I availed myself to the utmost of the freedom an honorable member of the Opposition enjoys, to criticize them. At all events I supported the section as a whole as I have always done, on the ground that the federal authority should be predominant, and that.it is the only authority adequate to deal with an interstate dispute. That being so, it is a function which a conciliation commissioner should be well able to handle as part of his ordinary duties once the legal aspects of the case have been determined. Once he is guided upon that question I think he should be able to take hold of the subject and insist on taking hold of it to the exclusion of any State authority.
.- There is a fallacy known by the schoolmen as ingoatio elenchi, which consists in more or less elaborately disproving what has never been alleged, or more or less elaborately proving what has never been challenged. In the first portion of his speech the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) showed us that he is an expert in both directions.
– I merely disproved what the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) had said, and disproved, in anticipation, what I knew the Leader of the Opposition would be bound to say.
– This intelligent anticipation of the honorable member does his imagination much credit, but I fear that his .anticipation was not entirely accurate. Section 20 provides that the Federal Arbitration Court may prevent a State industrial authority from dealing with an industrial dispute or part of an industrial dispute. The clause under consideration confers that power on conciliation commissioners. State industrial authorities are of various kinds. There are wages boards and tribunals of one kind or another. In New South “Wales there is an industrial commission, consisting of three gentlemen with the status of Supreme Court Judges. The clause proposes that a conciliation commissioner appointed under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act shall have power to direct that New South “Wales authority not to proceed further with a matter with which it is dealing. I did not introduce this provision in the act, but I amended it in order to make it clearer than it previously was. Its object, as the Attorney-General has said, is to establish federal supremacy in the proper place. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) does. not challenge that proposition. It does not seek to. diminish the federal authority, although the Attorney-General spoke as if that were its effect. The only effect of the amendment would be that before a State industrial authority could be prevented from proceeding with a matter which was legitimately before it, the matter should be considered by at least one judge of the Federal Arbitration Court, and should not be left entirely to the decision of a conciliation commissioner. The Attorney-General proceeded to debate the principle that because a dispute meant an interstate dispute, prima facie, it must be dealt with by a federal court - every one knows that - and he repeated the hoary old statement of which I confess I am becoming very tired indeed, that no State tribunal can deal with an interstate dispute. There are, of course, some people who really believe it. I sympathize with them. I suppose it is quite impossible to explain so that they may understand that though there are some interstate industrial disputes which are genuine and best handled from a federal point of view; but every honorable member knows that one of the unfortunate incidents of the federal arbitration system has been the creation of fictitious and artificial interstate disputes for the purpose of attracting the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court, though many of the matters could perfectly well be dealt with by State courts. Every State can deal fully with any industrial matter arising within its own borders. If there is an alleged interstate dispute between, say, hairdressers and their employees in New South “Wales and Western Australia - that is the kind of case that sometimes comes before the court - it is plain that, although technically it is an interstate dispute, it can be perfectly well handled by the State tribunals. The idea that whenever an interstate dispute occurs it is necessarily one for federal jurisdiction is, in many cases, . obvious nonsense to anybody acquainted with the facts. Many of these so-called interstate cases, and, in fact, I think we may say most of them, are manufactured for the purpose of evading State jurisdiction and bringing them within the federal jurisdiction, because one party or the other prefers it.
– Or they wish to have the choice.
– That is so. If there were any weight in the argument of the Attorney-General that because a dispute is of an interstate nature it ought to be dealt with by a federal tribunal, we should enact, not a section such as is now proposed, but one providing that no State industrial tribunal should ever deal with an interstate dispute or part of it. But that is not proposed by the Government, and, therefore, the argument of the AttorneyGeneral on this point has no relation to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). The only object of the amendment is to secure that before the federal jurisdiction interferes with the exercise of State jurisdiction the matter shall have been considered by a judge, either originally or in addition to the consideration of the conciliation commissioners. Surely that is a reasonable request. It is highly desirable to avoid causes of friction and misunderstanding in industrial matters between the States and the Commonwealth, and it appears to me that if, without reference to a judge, a conciliation commissioner, on his own ipse dixit, and without the possibility of appeal or review,, could prevent a State industrial authority dealing with a matter, there would be furnished ground for grave dissatisfaction and avoidable industrial unrest. I hope that the amendment will be accepted.
.- The effect of the amendment is that a judge of the Federal Court shall have power to restrain a State authority from dealing with a matter that is before him, and that a conciliation commissioner shall not have that power. I say at once that. I strongly oppose any such amendment. It might happen that a conciliation commissioner was dealing with a dispute in an industry carried on in all the States, and while he was considering a matter with which he was entirely familiar, applications might be made in three different States, or in all the States, for State awards covering the same industry. Should a commissioner, who was actually dealing with the unions concerned in the dispute, be deprived of the right to restrain the State authorities from con sidering the case, thereby leaving power to make an award in the hands of a State authority who had no intimate knowledge of the whole of the circumstances? The proper authority to determine when it is advisable to restrain a State tribunal from dealing with a dispute is the conciliation commissioner who is actually considering it in the federal sphere. I have always held the view that the commissioners should have full power in regard to all matters except those in which legal points have to be decided. These men who represent the federal arbitration system should not he subordinate to the conciliation chairman or to the conciliation committees in New South Wales. Is it fair to say that a lesser body than the federal tribunal should proceed to make an award on a matter already under the jurisdiction of the federal body? If there were no power for a conciliation commissioner to restrain a State tribunal from proceeding with the hearing of a dispute, great delay and expense may be incurred before the matter could be dealt with by a judge.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie appears to have misunderstood the position. I endeavoured to point out that the present act provides for interference by the Federal Court to prevent State industrial authorities from proceeding with the hearing of interstate disputes, and it is not suggested that that power should be amended. I think that I said that it was a good thing to prevent the overlapping of awards; but the point that I wish to make is that it is all important that on occasions the State authorities should be permitted to vary a federal award if it would effect a saving of time and money and meet the convenience of the interested parties. A conciliation commissioner may be quite inexperienced in legal matters, and to empower him to prevent a State court from proceeding with the hearing of a case would be to give him a very grave responsibility. We know that the trade unionists of Australia are not at all unanimous as to the value of federal arbitration. Probably the majority of the trade unionists prefer the State courts. In Queensland, the shearers are not working under a federal award ; they prefer a State award. By this clause the Government is endeavouring to compel the whole of the trade unions of Australia to register in and force all employers into the Federal Arbitration Court. The present act clearly contemplates that the State authorities should be permitted to deal with certain disputes, because it provides in section 20 that the Federal Court “may” restrain the State authority from exercising jurisdiction. No sound reason for refusing to accept my amendment has been advanced. The proposal should commend itself to every honorable member, because it would remove the possibility of an inexperienced or unqualified conciliation commissioner preventing a State authority from doing good work in connexion with an industrial dispute. While I commend the Attorney-General for his courteous reply, I am disappointed that he has not recognized the merit of my amendment.
– Although . the Government received a mandate to retain federal arbitration it was not authorized to clothe the court with new powers. There must be some authority to decide whether or not a dispute is of an interstate character, and -to restrain State tribunals from dealing with matters which can be better dealt with by the federal tribunal. Under this bill there are to bc two sets of authorities. The judges are to be the superior authorities, and there will also he conciliation commissioners and conciliation, committees. . The conciliation commissioners will not be judges. A fewmay be barristers, but most of them, probably, will be laymen without legal t paining. That will gratify the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), who sees no good qualities in members of the legal profession. Arbitration cases which involve the consideration of intricate points of law, should bc decided by the judges, who should indicate to the conciliation commissioners the work to be undertaken by them. It seems entirely inconsistent that the commissioners - mere laymen - should have power to restrain the State judges from dealing with certain matters. I do not say that a decision by laymen should not prevail merely because they arc not learned in the law; but there is no reason why we should confer on conciliation commis sioners powers which should be exercised by judges who have made a special study of the law and of industrial arbitration. I am rather surprised to hear the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley). It is evident from what the Attorney-General did not say, rather than from what he said, that it is intended to allow the commissioners to determine which authority shall deal with an industrial dispute.
– Or whoever is dealing with it.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.There might not be a dispute, but even if there was, or if a dispute were about to be dealt with, the judges should have power to decide within whose jurisdiction the matter lay. It would be clearly incongruous to allow the commissioners to impose their will upon the judges of the Industrial Commission in New South Wales, or upon a similar body in any of the other States. Those tribunals have been accustomed to handling industrial cases for many years. It would be. absurd to give the powers conferred by this bill on conciliation commissioners to men who had been trade union officials. We do not know who are to be appointed to these positions. . We have been informed by the Attorney-General that . excellent appointments will be made.
– Say trapeze artists !
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.I would not be surprised; I have already indicated that a pugilist, appointed by the Lang Government, is officiating in New South Wales.
– And he is doing good work.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The Assistant Minister has assured us that this gentleman, named Paddy King, who was appointed as conciliation commissioner by the New South Wales Government, is doing good work, so he may be appointed a federal conciliation commissioner. This would mean that gentlemen of that character - I have nothing to say against his personal integrity - would have the power to deal with intricate legal questions which should only be dealt with by judges with a proper legal training.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) seems to be assailed by unfounded fears concerning the operation of this clause, but such fears cannot be substantiated by dragging into the discussion the name of Paddy King. The gentleman to whom the honorable member has referred is Mr. Morgan, the chairman of a conciliation committee, operating under the New South Wales law.
– Then he has two names. He boxed under the name of Paddy King.
– I understand that most pugilists adopt an alias for professional purposes just as artists in more refined callings adopt stage names. Mr. Morgan has discharged his conciliation duties very well indeed. It cannot be said of him that he has been reckless, imprudent, or negligent in the discharge of his duties. In fact, his work cannot fairly be adversely criticized. The honorable member has said that the amendment to section 20 of the act will give power to a conciliation commissioner to restrain a State authority from dealing with an industrial dispute, but if the honorable member would look at section 21aa of the act and read it in conjunction with section 20 he would see that before a conciliation commissioner could so restrain a State authority the court would need to declare that an interstate dispute exists. The jurisdiction to determine whether or not an. interstate dispute exists, and, therefore, whether a federal conciliation commissioner is rightfully or wrongfully exercising jurisdiction in a particular case, rests with the court and not with the commissioner. We have heard a great deal in this debate about the overlapping of Federal and State industrial authorities. The object of clause 10 is to put an end to some of this overlapping. If a dispute is an interstate dispute it comes within the jurisdiction of the federal authority, and in such circumstances a conciliation commissioner should have the power to restrain a State authority from dealing with it. If a federal conciliation commissioner is interfering in a dispute which is not an interstate dispute, and which the federal authority should not take cognisance of, the matter may be brought before the court under a later provision. If the dispute is an interstate dispute the conciliation commissioner should have the power to restrain a State authority from interfering; but I repeat that it is for the court, and not for the conciliation commissioner, to decide whether a dispute is interstate or intrastate.
– If the commissioner has interfered in an intra-state dispute there is no appeal from his order.
– That is a different point, and is not the one taken by tho honorable member for Warringah. Clause 10 will serve a useful purpose in eliminating in a large measure the mischief caused by the duplication and overlapping of industrial authorities which has been so severely and frequently animadverted against by honorable members opposite.
.- In my opinion the only persons entitled to apply to the court for a decision as to whether an interstate dispute exists are the parties to the dispute. An outsider would have no right to approach the court on the matter. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) has supplied a very strong reason why all those matters should be dealt with by the court and not by a commissioner. If the court is the only authority to determine whether an interstate dispute exists I submit it is the proper authority to give judgment in the dispute. If a commissioner has no power to determine whether a dispute is an interstate dispute he should not be entrusted with the power to issue an injunction.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 -
Section twenty-one a a of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “High Court” and inserting in their stead the word “Court”;.
Section proposed to be amended - 21aa. - (1.)When an alleged industrial dispute is submitted to the Court -
in the case of a dispute submitted to the Court by plaint - the complainant or respondent organisation or association; and
in any other case - any party to the proceeding or the Registrar, may apply to the High Court for a decision on the question whether the dispute or any part thereof exists, or is threatened or impending or probable, as an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State or on any question of law arising in relation to the dispute or to the proceeding or to any award or order of the Court. (4.) The decision of the High Court or the
Justice on the question shall be final and conclusive, and shall not be subject to any appeal to the High Court in its appellate jurisdiction, and shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question, or be subject to prohibition mandamus or injunction, in any court on any account whatever.
– I move -
That after the word “ amended “ the following be inserted: - “ (aa) by inserting in sub-section (1) after the word ‘Court’ (first occurring), the words ‘or a Conciliation Commissioner’; (ab) by inserting in sub-section (1) after the word ‘Court’ (second occurring), the words ‘or Commissioner.’ “
The section will then read -
When an alleged industrial dispute is submitted to the Court -
in the case of a dispute submitted to the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner by plaint - the complainant or respondent organization or association ; and
in any other case - any party to the proceeding or the Registrar, may apply to the Court, for a decision on the question whether the dispute or any part thereof exists, or is threatened or impending or probable, as an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State or on any question of law, arising in relation to the dispute, or to the proceeding or to any award or order of the Court or of a Conciliation Commissioner.
.- The effect of the amendment is to substitute the Arbitration Court for the High Court in determining whether an industrial dispute exists or extends beyond the limits of any one State; and also for determining questions of law. It is provided that the decision of the Arbitration Court shall be final and conclusive. I am glad that the Government has amended an earlier clause to eliminate the absurdity which existed in the bill as originally introduced, under which the powers conferred by section 21aa of the act were to be conferred on conciliation commissioners, so that a commissioner could determine whether an industrial dispute existed, or how far it existed.
The object of the present amendment is to exclude the jurisdiction of the High Court in industrial matters, and to make the Industrial Court self-contained, without allowing appeal even on questions of law, or on whether a dispute extends beyond the limits of any one State. I understand that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) intends to discuss the possibility of doing what it is proposed to do here, and I shall leave that aspect of the matter to him. Apart from that, I doubt whether any advantage will be gained by an endeavour to make the Arbitration Court the final court to determine these questions of law, insofar as they affect its jurisdiction. I am reasonably convinced, as a lawyer, that the attempt will be futile, and that it may lead to duplication of proceedings. In everything except industrial matters, parliaments are, as a rule, very concerned to see that a citizen is not subjected to any damage or risk of damage or hostile order without providing opportunity for the fullest discussion before a skilled tribunal. In no other jurisdiction is it so ardently desired to exclude the possibility of skilled judgment on matters under discussion. I agree that with regard to awards in general, there ought not to be any appeal, though there should, perhaps, be some provision for review in certain cases, namely, when an award is issued by a conciliation commissioner without the assistance of a judge. The decisions of the Arbitration Court are of more importance as regards the rights and pecuniary interest of citizens than those of practically any other court; but the modern tendency is to exclude from arbitration courts the benefits of skilled judgment. That is an unfortunate tendency, and as in this case it willprobably be also quite futile, it is not desirable, it seems to me, to proceed with the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to-
That after paragraph a the following be inserted : - “ (ac) by inserting in subsection (1) after the word ‘court’ (last occurring) the words ‘or a conciliation commissioner ‘ “.
.- I move -
That after paragraph e the following paragraph be inserted: - “ by omitting from sub-section iea the words ‘ or he Subject to prohibition, mandamus or injunction.’ “
Sub-section 4 of section 21aa of the act as proposed to be amended reads as follows : -
The decision of the court on the question shall be final and conclusive, and shall not be subject to any appeal to the High Court in its appellate jurisdiction, and shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question, or be subject to prohibition, mandamus or injunction, in any court on any account whatever.
The Leader of the Opposition has already stated that it would be ineffective for this court to attempt to take away from the High Court its right to supervise and review the actions of the Arbitration Court by means of processes known as mandamus and prohibition. Those rights are inherent in the High Court, and in regard to arbitration, there is a statutory right implied by the Constitution itself, a right which is not touched by that section of the Constitution dealing with appeals. Appeals are dealt with in section 73 of the Constitution, which reads -
The High Court shall have jurisdiction, with such exceptions and subject to such regulations as the Parliament prescribes, to hear and determine appeals from all judgments, decrees, orders, and sentences -
The exception is as regards the rights of the High Court to deal with appeals, but the power of the High Court to supervise inferior courts by mandamus or prohibition, is a totally different power altogether, and is one which for all time has been held by the highest court in the land. I shall explain briefly the difference between the processes of appeal and those of mandamus and prohibition. Appeal processes are fairly well understood. There must first be a hearing and a decision, and from that decision an appeal may be made to the High Court on the merits of the decision. Very often, however, the cause of complaint against a court is not that it has come to an improper decision, but that it has gone outside the1 powers of its jurisdiction into matters over which it has no control; or, on the contrary, that it has refused to deal with matters over which it has power. Supposing a conciliation commissioner declares that he has no power to deal with a certain matter in dispute. It is open to any party concerned to approach the High Court by way of mandamus for an order that the commissioner shall deal with the matter. An instance of the process of prohibition was furnished during the recent coal dispute, when the question arose as to whether or not the dispute extended beyond the limits of one State. An application was made to the High Court, and a prohibition was issued to restrain Judge Beeby from proceeding with the dispute. The ground in that case was that the court was exceeding the power conferred by the act. The power to issue such prohibitions has always existed in the highest court of law, and it is proper that it should. Whenever a power is vested in a person or a court, it is proper that the exercise of that power should be subject to some control. An officer of the Government is subject” to the control of those who appoint him; parliaments are subject to the people through the polls. As this question has been determined by the High Court I am surprised that the Attorney-General has not deleted the words “ or be subject to prohibition, mandamus, or injunction “ from the existing act. In the tramways case, reported in 18 Commonwealth Law Reports, page 54, a unanimous decision was given by six judges of the High Court. The heading in that case reads “ Jurisdiction to issue prohibition to a tribunal acting without or in excess of its jurisdiction is in its nature original and not appellate.” It was held -
That original jurisdiction has been conferred by section 75 (v) of the Constitution upon the High Court to issue prohibition to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and that section 31 (1) of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1911, so far as it purports to take away from the High Court the power to issue prohibition in respect of an award or order of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is invalid.
Section 31 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1911, is in almost exactly the same terms as in this bill. It has already been held that an attempt to exclude the power of the High Court to discipline the Arbitration Court in cases beyond its jurisdiction is invalid. There was some doubt as to whether the President of the Arbitration Court was an officer of the Commonwealth ; but that doubt has since been removed. On page 75 of 18 Commonwealth Law Reports in the tramways case, to which I have just referred, I find the following opinion of Mr. Justice Isaacs -
Since the argument was closed I have carefully examined the question anew, and apart from the authorities cited, and I have been irresistibly led to the conclusion that mandamus for refusal to entertain a matter within jurisdiction, and prohibition against entertaining a matter, without or in excess of jurisdiction, do not fall within the apellate jurisdiction of this court
Therefore, if they do not fall within appellate jurisdiction they are not affected by section 73, which gives the appellant the right to appeal subject to such regulations as may be prescribed. The AttorneyGeneral proposes to utilize section 73 of the Constitution and to add to the clause these words - “ (5.) The last preceding sub-section shall be read as an exception prescribed by the Parliament to the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court under section seventy-three of the Constitution.”
There is. no need to include that clause when the matter has been determined by the highest court in the land, and when this right of review by prohibition and mandamus does not come within the appellate jurisdiction, but within the original jurisdiction. Section 75 of the Constitution reads -
In the tramways case it was specifically ruled that the President of the Arbitration Court is an officer of the Commonwealth and therefore the High Court has jurisdiction. As the words arc ineffective and misleading, they should be deleted.
– I thought of addressing myself at some length to the argument which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has adduced. The honorable member has, I think, fairly stated the argument, and has referred to the relevant case; but even if it is admitted that the matter is not free from doubt, it is proposed, until tho matter is finally settled, to assume that the power is vested in the judges of the Arbitration Court, and to let it go at that. I do not: propose to assert the contrary with quite as much confidence as that manifested by the honorable member, because the High Court itself has not finally determined the question. I have gone into the matter at some length; but I feel that a discussion on the subject would not serve any useful purpose. We shall leave it as it is hoping for the best, and if it is found that this power cannot be so exercised - it is to be hoped that it can - we must abide by the decision of the court. In the meantime we shall retain the clause as it is.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Agreement to have effect of award).
.- As the amendment proposed to this clause is very important, I suggest that it be considered in conjunction with clause 17. The two clauses deal with analagous matters, and one debate of the two would, I am sure, save time. Section 24, which clause 13 proposes to amend, requires that in certifying an agreement the court shall determine whether it is in the public interest and clause 25d provides that the economic effect of an award shall be taken into account.I suggest to the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) that the two clauses should be debated at the same time.
– I have no objection.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).That will be permissible.
– Section 24 of the act provides that, if in the settlement of a dispute an agreement is reached between the parties, the memorandum of agreement shall be certified by a judge and if so certified shall have the effect of an award. It is now proposed to extend the power to certify agreements to conciliation commissioners. There is a proviso to section 25 to the effect that if a judge is of opinion that the agreement is not in settle- mont of an industrial dispute, or that it is not in the public interest he may refuse to certify the agreement. It is now proposed to extend that proviso to cover decisions reached by conciliation commissioners, and to exclude the provision which in express terms requires the judge to take the public interest into account. The words “ or that it is not in the public interest that it should be certified” were inserted in 1928, and I submit to tho committee that they mark and enunciate a profoundly important principle. An industrial dispute is far too ‘ often regarded in Parliament as a matter which affects only the disputants - the employers and the particular employees concerned. That is not my view of an industrial dispute. There is always a third party, namely, the general public, and it is nowhere more important that the interests of the public should he considered than in the case of an agreement between two parties to a dispute. There are some sheltered industries which, if only they can arrive at an agreement within the limits of an industry, are able to take down the general public to an almost unlimited extent. I mention as an obvious case tho transport industry and similar industrial activities in which there is no competition from any other country. The work must be done in Australia. But lately, as we have discovered, there arc limits even to this practice.
– The coal industry is one.
– Yes ; and the various State railway services. Until recently it was assumed, apparently, that each State had the purse of FOrtunatus into which it could dip to provide money for any range of wages or conditions that might be demanded or awarded.
– In what way do State railway services pass on to the general public the effect of awards? In New South Wales 70 per cent, of the business is carried without profit.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that I am so simple-minded as to suggest that the only way in which improved conditions and high wages to railway employees are passed on to the general public is by increasing freights and fares. The burden is passed on also in ihe form of railway deficits, and it has proved so great iu some instances as to limit the amount of business done. All railway services in Australia to-day are in an unsatisfactory financial position. But I do not suggest for a moment, and I hope I will not be misunderstood as suggesting, that this position is the result only of the making of certain awards for railway employees. We all know that many other elements, including the improvement in roads and the development of motor traffic, are important contributing factors to railway deficits. I only mentioned the railway services for the purpose of emphasizing that there are some industries which, if they can arrive at an agreement within themselves, are able to pass on to the public the effect of improvement in working conditions and increased wages, which may be desirable in themselves, and that this burden may be disastrous from the point of view of the people^ and ultimately to the industries themselves.
– Employment at low wages.
– The Assistant Minister is a great man at catchwords. I have never known a parrot like him.
– And the Leader of the Opposition is like a schoolmaster.
– The honorable gentleman’s one idea is that honorable members on this side stand for the payment of low wages.
– That is because honorable members opposite are always talking about low wages.
– It is impossible, apparently, to get this idea out of the head of the Minister. Evidently, it was the one subject about which he spoke during the last election, and he has made the statement so often that now he actually believes it.
– It is a fact.
– As I said, it is obvious that the Minister now believes it notwithstanding that there is not the slightest evidence of its truth. There is no sane reason why any honorable member on this side should desire to do anything to bring about a reduction in wages.
– Then why are honorable members opposite always harping about it?
– Who introduced the subject ?’
– The honorable gentleman himself.
– It was introduced by the claqueurs in the party supporting the Government; by honorable gentlemen like the honorable member who has just interjected, whose contributions to the debates in this chamber consist mainly of occasional interjections.
– That surely is his privilege.
– I am not suggesting it is not, but we hear these interjections so often that one is almost persuaded that they are automatic, and are made because the bulb is pressed in interested quarters.
I was endeavouring to persuade the Minister that one of the things which ought to receive attention by any industrial tribunal in certifying an agreement or making an award is the interest of the unemployed section. The fullest rights of the employees at a given time in an industry are considered. Honorable members opposite appear to forget, when awards or agreements are being determined, that consideration should be given to the possibility of extending the industry. This is one reason why this question is important in the public interest. Agreements, after all, are only made between those who are at the moment engaged in an industry. I should like to see the courts consider also the effect of any particular agreement or award upon the possible expansion of an industry so as to extend employment. Every industry ought to be considered in relation to the public interest as a whole. It is not enough that an agreement has been arrived at between the parties to warrant the ascription of legal force to an award or agreement.
– What form should an agreement take to enable more employment to be given?
– I do not think that the honorable member for Denison fully understands the point which I have raised. I observed that section 24 of the act permits of an agreement made between parties having the force of an award if it is certified by the court. At present that section provides that in considering whether a particular agreement ought to be certified the court shall take into account the public interest, and I am suggesting that there are some industries in which it suits those who are at the moment engaged in them, employers and employees alike, to make .them a close preserve for themselves. Probably the hon:orable member knows certain industries in this category. I am endeavouring to show that the public interest would be better served by an alteration in conditions which would increase the number of employers or employees in a particular industry, and I again point out that the section requires this matter to be considered. At the present time the public interest may require that alterations should be made which will increase employment upon fair terms and conditions. Probably any honorable member who has knowledge of a particular industry will admit that in many instances there are inserted in awards conditions which do nobody any real good. If these conditions were eliminated, there would be a possibility of extending industry and increasing employment. The whole matter is one for the consideration of the judge or the conciliation commissioners as the case may be. To suggest that a consideration of the public interest means a reduction of wages is, to my mind, both infantile and puerile.
– That was the result in the timber-workers’ case.
– The honorable member, apparently, does not attach sufficient weight to certain considerations. He must know that, in the timber trade, there are certain operations which in the past were carried out by craftsmen, but which now, in every country in the world, are being carried out by machine attendants ; and there must be a variation of wages when that takes place in an industry. That is one of the problems and difficulties connected with industry. Honorable members know what I mean when I refer to a machine attendant. Such a man requires to have practically no skill. If, with the progress of industry, he can do work that formerly was done by a craftsman, a variation of the rates of wages cannot be avoided.
– Why did the employers suggest that nine-tenths of the conditions of the timber-workers’ award could not be put into operation so as to give effect to the reductions prescribed by the judge ?
– I am not aware that that was even remotely suggested by a responsible individual.
– It was.
– The suggestion that nine-tenths of the conditions cannot be put into operation is ridiculous, because everybody knows that that industry is, in fact, working under the award to-day.
– It is not; a fresh agreement with regard to rates and conditions was made.
– There have been some slight variations.
– They were not slight.
– They did not affect anything approaching nine-tenths of the conditions. That is an example of the irresponsible statements that are made by uninformed honorable members opposite. But I do not wish to be led into an argument upon a specific case. I should like to hear why it is suggested that the public interest is not to be considered in the certifying of an agreement. I should have thought it was obvious that the public interest is not served by low wages. The higher wages can be the better for the community as a whole; and the higher the standard of living, the better the chance for everybody. Surely that is the opinion which is held by any intelligent citizen who has any conception of his obligations towards society, and any idea of the importance that attaches to the well being of our fellow men and women. Surely the public interest demands as a minimum, a fair wage. Who will suggest that the provision of a fair wage is inconsistent with the public interest? I ask that regard for the public interest shall be specifically prescribed, and I consider that the provision of a fair wage is in the public interest. If honorable members opposite argue that, in order to preserve a fair wage, the reference to the public interest should be excluded, they tie themselves to the proposition that a fair wage is against the public interest. I am prepared to allow them to take up that position. But I should like honorable members to show me how they support the proposition that a fair wage is contrary to the public interest. Of course, they will say that they do not so contend. But if they insist upon excluding the reference to the public interest, and argue that they do so in order to preserve the principle of a fair wage, then they bind themselves, with logical chains that they cannot break, to the proposition that a fair wage is inconsistent with the public interest. I do not adopt that position. I say that, in all these matters, the public is a third party, and that its interest must be considered. It is in the interests of industry itself that the interest of the public be considered. To say that the economic effect of an award or agreement shall not be considered, is simply to hide one’s head in the sand. We shall not even make a beginning towards a solution of the problems confronting Australia if we persist in a course that involves the wilful blinding of our intellectual and social vision. I oppose the amendment.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said that he did not know why the public interest should not be considered. I have before me a transcript or the proceedings in the Pastoral case, heard recently before His Honour, Chief Judge Dethridge, in which this particular section 25d is dealt with. As I have previously stated, His Honour, Judge Lukin, dealt with that section in the Fruit-pickers’ case, and stressed the point that the court was commanded by the Parliament of this country to take into consideration the economic effect of an award upon an industry, seemingly being unaware that that had always been done. The Chief Judge in the Pastoral case dealt with this particular matter in the following terms, in reply to Mr. Roberts : -
I think it is just as well to clear the ground about this section 25d. What you say suggests that there is some misapprehension as to the effect that that section has had in the past with regard to this court. I speak now only us to the main portion of it, and not as to the proviso; but the main portion of it runs as follows: - “ This court shall, before making any award . . . take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned “.
Then we get the proviso, “ Provided that this section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage “.That, in its form, is a command to the court. That is to say, the suction says the court shall take into consideration the probable economic effects and so on, subject to the proviso. The court, since I have been connected with it, and, I think, since its initiation, under every judge, has, in practice, taken into consideration the probable economic affect of an agreement or award; subject to this, that, in accordance with the doctrine introduced by Mr. Justice Higgins, so far as any particular industry is concerned, the harvester wage is, as he calls it, sacrosanct. Throughout the court has purported to adopt that doctrine, but it appears in have been thought, particularly in connexion with the 44-hour movement, as 1 shall call it, that in some instances the court did not pay sufficient regard to the economic effect of reducing the standard week from 48 to 44 hours, and I think really it was in consequence of that that this command, comprised in section 25d, was introduced.
The Chief Judge regarded it as a command by this Parliament that he should take certain action. But a worse feature is that both he and Judge Lukin have adopted the viewpoint that they must take into consideration the immediate economic position of an industry. Throughout the history of arbitration in this Commonwealth, until section 25d was enacted no judge took a single year as the unit upon which to determine the basis of an award ; the practice always has been to take a period of years. His Honour went on to say that there had been a drop of about 66 per cent. in the value of wool, and, taking into consideration the economic position of the industry, he would have to reduce wages by 33 per cent, so as to divide equally the loss in the value of the wool. I do not know whether His Honour intends to do that, because he has not yet given his judgment. In reply to Mr. Roberts, he further stated -
But. throughout, the court has purported, anyhow, to take into consideration the economic effects of any award or agreement that it has to deal with, and I say again that any industrial court which declines to take into consideration the probable economic effects of an award which it is about to make is simply disregarding one of the prime necessities of its functions. No parliament, no court, if it proposes to act sanely, can disregard economic effects. No parliament or court can take upon itself the role of Mrs. Partington and try to sweep up the Atlantic with a hair broom. It cannot be done: and so this command comprised in section 25 (d) was largely - perhaps almost wholly; I will not say wholly, because it may be that on occasions the court has perhaps shown an inclination to disregardeconomic consequences - unnecessary. Generally speaking, the court has paid regard to economic consequences, subject to this, that the Harvester wage has, when dealing with particular industries, been regardedas sacrosanct; and I may say again - referring to what I have said in a previous judgment this year, with regard to this proviso, which, in effect, as 1 read it, incorporated in the statute what Mr. Justice Higgins laid down - that the practice of this court as I understand it always has been to see that the adult male workers in an industry get the real equivalent of the Harvester wage. That has been the invariable practice of the court, and this proviso in the section simply enacts that that practice shall be observed; but there is another aspect to which I think it is desirable for me to call attention. That is this. The court has never yet been faced with the suggestion that the country cannot afford to continue paying the equivalent of the Harvester wage to adult males as a whole. That is, apart from the conditions in any particular industry, the court has never yet been faced with the suggestion or the argument that, taking the national income as a whole, after providing for essential capital necessities at their lowest cost, and after providing for essential management costs at the lowest obtainable cost, industry cannot afford,from the balance of that national income, to continue paying the Harvester wage as the minimum adult wage. That position has never yet been put to the court. Whether it will be put to the court in future is another matter.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has frequently stated in this chamber that his party does not stand for a reduction in wages. Yet his political friends in Queensland have so emasculated the Arbitration Act in that State as to preclude a large number of industrialists from any benefits accruing under it. As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) said, similar action has been taken in New South Wales under the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court. Judge Lukin reduced the wages of the fruit-pickers, and, in doing so, deliberately disregarded the economic effect upon the workers, and gave little consideration to the position of the industry itself. The same thing happened in the timber industry and the pastoral industry. Judge Dethridge refused to allow evidence to be made public, and when the representatives of the Australian Workers Union left the court, he communicated with the auditor of the Australian Workers Union in Sydney and asked him to examine the accounts on behalf of that organization. The evidence was so sacrosanct that only the auditor was permitted to examine it. Little consideration is given, by the judges, to the economic effect of their awards on the lives of the workers engaged in the industries affected. Too much consideration is given to the profits of those in control of industry. The. honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) has stated that we cannot get more out of industry than we put into it. The workers build up the industry, and when it stops they get nothing. Because it was alleged that the profit in the timber industry was only 2 per cent., the wages of the workers were reduced. But, as the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) has said, an agreement has since been effected between the two parties which definitely alters the award. In view of these facts, I cannot remain silent when honorable members opposite say that they do not believe in reducing wages. Actually every Nationalist Government in this country has so severely emasculated the State Arbitration Acts as to preclude from their operation many of the industrialists of this country. Judge Dethridge and Judge Lukin, when making an award, take into consideration its immediate economic effect on industry over a period of one. year only. Such a thing cannot make for industrial peace. Previously, the practice was to take a period of three years, and until recently that practice had not been challenged. If, in the pastoralists’ case, the judge had taken a period of three years instead of one year he might have arrived at a totally different conclusion. There is one other thing that I should like to mention. A statement was made to-night about the shearers of Queensland refusing to come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court. If the Pastoralists Union, like the ship-owners, had been agreeable to bring their members under federal jurisdiction, the Queensland shearers would have been under the control of the Federal Court. It is because the workers in the pastoral industry and the Queensland branch of the Pastoralists Union could not come within the ambit of the Federal Arbitration Act that they are to-day working under a Queensland award:
– The Australian Workers Union elected not to bring the shearers under federal jurisdiction.
– Thewaterside workers were not in dispute when they were brought within federal jurisdiction. It was only when they were brought mandatorily within its jurisdiction that they became belligerent. I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to prove that there was not peace on the waterfront in Queensland when the waterside workers were brought willy-nilly under the jurisdiction of the Federal Court. They desired to remain under the State jurisdiction, but because of the ship-owners’ influence were brought within federal jurisdiction.
– That was an ordinary dispute.
– There was no dispute at that particular period. To get over the difficulty, Judge Beeby amended the Waterside Workers’ Award as applying to Queensland, and under it the workers lost many little concessions and benefits that had taken them . years to win from their employers. That award engendered, the bitterness that is prevailing among the waterside workers to-day.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service - Statement showing alterations in salaries and conditions of employment of non-members of Public
Service organizations resulting from the restriction of arbitration benefits, and the application of Public Service Regulations to non-members from the 1st June, 1930.
Audit Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1930, No. 74.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1930, Nos. 72, 73.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Forrest, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Adminstration) Act - Ordinance of 1930 - No. 8 - Leases (Special Purposes).
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The rejection of the Wheat Marketing Bill in another place, has led to a serious and most extraordinary development, which has been indicated to me by telegrams I have received to-day from men in business and commercial circles in New South Wales. One telegram is from one of the largest distributors in the Middle West and reads as follows: -
View defeat of wheat guarantee catastrophe. Given credit many farmers to increase area sown. Very serious position now developed. Advise any way out.
The firm with which the. sender of that telegram is connected has given credit to the farmers in its district to theextent of about £80,000. In a neighbouring town, according to information I have received, a firm has given credit to farmers to the extent of £49,000. In many instances the securities owned by the farmers are held by banks or money lending institutions, and the Rural Industries Board holds liens over the crops of many for advances made, but their knowledge of the men on the land and the probability of a guaranteed price being paid for the wheat have induced business people to extend the credit of the farmers for goods and other necessities they required in order to further develop the area under wheat. With the guarantee position now disturbed by the action of another place these business people are being put to great inconvenience, and naturally they are seeking to overcome their difficulties.
Hence the telegrams I have received. One telegram is as follows : -
Parkes Chamber Commerce disappointed rejection wheat bill and strongly urge quick submission short bill covering pool and guarantee one year only to meet present extraordinary situation instead waiting submit rejected measure.
Mr. Willis, as manager of Mitchell and Company, machinery manufacturers, New South Wales, is a man of considerable standing in the business community, and is familiar with the position of the farming industry throughout the State. As manufacturers, his firm has given credit to farmers for machinery and often without security. It has had confidence in the power of the farmer to increase his output by extra exertions, and believed he would thus be in a better position after the harvest to repay the money advanced to him. I have received from the president of the Ashburnham District Council, the following telegram: -
Farmers this wheat belt bitterly disappointed Senate’s action rejecting wheat bill. Urge every effort be made submit again even if guarantee for one year only.
That is signed by Mr. Richard Job, who is actively connected with the party opposed to me politically. These telegrams show the grave concern felt by people in responsible positions in regard to the position which has developed in the wheat-growing belts of New South Wales during the last few days. The president of the Farmers and Settlers Association in New South Wales assured me yesterday that the situation is most critical and suggested that some action should be taken to overcome it. Another telegram which I received is as follows : -
Parkes branch farmers and settlers strongly supports proposed new wheat pool bill.
Apparently the farmers and settlers organizations are actively engaged in an attempt to have something done in the direction indicated in that telegrams Another telegram is from the Primary Producers Stabilization League, and reads as follows : -
Farmers and business people concerned . wheat pool. Is it possible for anything to be done?
These telegrams emphasize the position that has developed. We realize that we must live within our means, but the problem we are faced with so far as our primary producers are concerned is whether they are going to produce or continue producing wealth for the nation. I impress on honorable members the absolute necessity of giving earnest consideration to the position of the farmer as brought about by the rejection of the Wheat Marketing Bill by the Senate.
.- I was unaware that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) intended to bring forward to-night the position that has arisen in the wheat-growing areas, but I rise to say that what he has said of the position in New South Wales applies also in Victoria, and affects, not only the farmers, but, as the honorable member has pointed out, men engaged in business in rural districts. The Prime Minister, as the head of the nation, appealed to those engaged in wheat-growing toproduce more wheat, and in response to that appeal, coupled with the promise of a guarantee,a very large area was sown with wheat that otherwise never would have been sown. The farmers have entered into commitmentsfor increased acreage relyingon getting a guarantee of something approximating the cost of productionfor at least one year. The world’s wheatmarket is to-day unsettled and we are faced with the prospect of a large harvest. We have wheat-growers withtwo or three years commitments to meet. Many of them in the western districtof New South Wales, and the Malleedistrict of Victoria, have not had acrop for two years. The serious position which has been created affects not only the farmers and the business people ; it also affects the nation as a whole. I do not know what can be done in the matter, but I suggest that the Prime Minister shouldsee whether it is possible, under the Constitution, for the Commonwealth Government to assist State pools, or to take other action for the assistance of the wheat-growers of Australia. I shall not detain honorable members at this late hour)but I associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons), and I assure the House that theposition of Victoria is similar to that of New South Wales.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300708_reps_12_125/>.