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Tuesday, 31 August 1920

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister for Works and Railways) . - I am not in a position to accept the amendment. The honorable member who has moved it has said that strikes ought not to be lightly entered into, and I think that people, generally, will agree with him. He put that view forward and asked the .Committee to consider it. He believes that if the women who are so seriously affected by strikes were asked to record a vote for or against a strike it would be found, in many instances, that those who suffer most from strikes would be against them. I am more concerned, however, with the effect of the amendment upon the original Act, and on that account I cannot see my way to accept it. The intention of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is to make lockouts and "strikes illegal. There is a difficulty in enforcing that intention, but it is the spirit of the Act that there should be no strikes or lockouts, because there is machinery provided by the Act itself whereby the persons affected can secure a peaceful adjustment of their differences and redress of their grievances. The idea of the Act is to do away with the barbarous method of the strike and introduce the reign of law and order into the conduct of economic affairs.

Mr Gregory - It has been an awful failure.

Mr GROOM - Not altogether; and I am rather inclined to take the view that when the history of industrial legislation in Australia is impartially written, it will show that our efforts have contributed helpful experiments in connexion with industrial disputes. I do not say for a moment, that it has been the means of solving all our difficulties., but we have been groping after that which is right without precedent to guide us. Mistakes have been made in the past, and we are now endeavouring to correct some of them, both in this Bill and in a measure which is now before the other Chamber. It is our desire to seek some means by which we can substitute law and order and peaceful conditions for strikes and lockouts. . I am quite sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) will accept my assurance that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) had no intention of breaking up our industrial legislation when he moved his amendment. In the first place the difficulty is that strikes are illegal, and this amendment purports to give the President of the Arbitration Court, in the event of a strike, the power to order that a ballot shall be taken. Instead of ordering a ballot, he should order penalties on those responsible for encouraging a strike. The mover of . the amendment has not followed it up sufficiently .by showing what would be the result if those balloting were in favour of a strike.

Mr Bamford - There would not be a strike.

Mr GROOM - But supposing there were, the Court would be sanctioning something which the Act declares illegal. The wording of the amendment is against" the general tenor of the law, and for that reason I cannot see my way to accept it. The honorable member who moved the amendment must admit that it is contrary to the spirit of the Bill.

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