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Tuesday, 31 August 1920

Mr RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) . - I am not satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom). I do not want to place my opinion against that of the Minister on constitutional questions, but it is absolutely inconceivable that a practical piece of common sense business which has been proceeding for the past twenty or thirty years or more should be outside the province of this Parliament. If the Minister's statement is correct the sooner the Constitution is amended, if that is necessary, the better it will be, because it is simply an outrage.

Mr Groom - We have no power to pass direct legislation on labour matters throughout the Commonwealth. We cannot pass a common rule.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - Do I understand that the President of the Arbitration Court refused their request?

Mr Groom - Yes, because they were there on a question of conciliation and arbitration. It is left to his discretion.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - It is assumed that the President looked upon it as unreason able and would not sanction it.

Mr Ryan - The honorable member's point is that if the Court has power this Parliament ought to have the power.


Mr Groom - But it has not.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - This is not a party question, and I am contending for a principle that is as much in the interests of the shearers as it is in the interests of the employers. It is based on ordinary business methods, arid if we are going to submit to another principle that is likely to be a further impediment to industrial operations in this country it is time, in the public interest, that it was rectified.

Mr Brennan - Will the honorable member explain how this amendment affects thepoint he is dealing with?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - It provides that the shearers shall sign an agreement and secure' continuous work, and that is what they have been doing for twenty years.

Mr.Lavelle. - It means that they will be bound hand and foot before they go to a shed.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - Nothing of the kind. I am merely repeating what the shearers have told me. They do not want to bo handed over to the tender mercies of some individuals at the sheds. The practice has been in vogue for twenty or thirty years, during which time the Australian Workers Union has grown' to the biggest thing of its kind in any part of the world. I am desirous of dispensing with that which is responsible for most of the industrial unrest in Australia, and I ask the Minister to allow this clause to be postponed to enable honorable members to ascertain whether his statement as to the power of this Parliament' is correct or not.

Progress reported.

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