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Wednesday, 1 September 1920

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister for Works and Railways) . I promised the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Poster) last night, after he had pressed me to make further inquiries respecting our powers in the matter under discussion, that I would again consult the Crown Law authorities. I place on record the opinion of the SolicitorGeneral (Sir Robert Garran), which is as follows: -

Notwithstanding the opinion of counsel cited on behalf of the Graziers Association, I think there is grave doubt whether Mr. Gregory's proposed amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (to stand as 53b of the principal Act) is constitutional.

It seeks to forbid an organization, during the currency of an award, from enforcing any rule preventing members from entering into written agreements in advance.

The Commonwealth power is confined to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of certain disputes.

Incidentally to this power, the Parliament can provide for the establishment and recognition of organizations of employers and employees (Jumbunna case 6, C.L.B.. 398). And it can make statutory provision as to their rules, &c, in relation to matters which concern their effectiveness and instruments for conciliation and arbitration.

But it cannot make laws for the regulation of labour conditions, otherwise than by means of conciliation and arbitration.

It appears to me that the purport of this amendment is not incidental to conciliation and arbitration, but is in the nature of an industrial regulation.

Mr Richard Foster - Then the point, as between employee and employer, really becomes a State affair.

Mr GROOM - All we can do is to set up a Court of Conciliation and Ar.bitration for the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes. This Parliament cannot settle disputes or legislate directly with respect to them.

Mr Richard Foster - Then, I repeat, this complaint can only be remedied by the State authorities.

Mr GROOM - And I can only say again that we have not the power; and whatever power we have not remains with the States.

Mr Gregory - Is the Minister prepared to 6ay whether or not paragraph d of sub-section 1 of section 60 of the Arbitration Act is unconstitutional ?

Mr GROOM - I am not prepared to give, offhand, opinions concerning various sections of our arbitration legislation.

Mr Brennan - The Court has the general right of supervising the rules of an organization applying to be registered, -rt may attack the organization upon its rules.

Mr GROOM - This ' Parliament cannot, by seeking to impose conditions or registration, in effect, legislate directly upon industrial matters.

Mr Richard Foster - Then it amounts to this, that the members of the Australian Workers Union have more power than the Federal Parliament.

Mr GROOM - We have only such powers as have been given us under the Constitution. In the circumstances, I cannot depart from the view which I expressed upon this matter in Committee last night.

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