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Wednesday, 1 September 1920

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .This amendment is worthy of consideration . The High Court has decided, according to this morning's newspapers-

Mr Wise - Is the honorable member going to rely on newspaper reports of an important judgment?

Mr CHARLTON - As to that, I have a suggestion to make. The amendment deals with a burning question. It was because of a previous decision of the High Court declaring that we had not the power to enable employees of State instrumentalities to avail themselves of. the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court that the principal Act was framed as it stands to-day, so far as this matter is concerned. The High Court, differently constituted, has now held that we have the power. We are constantly amending the principal Act, and are always claiming a desire to exercise to the full our constitutional powers, so that the Court may deal effectively with theindustrial troubles that arise from time to time. Why, then, not take action ? The Minister (Mr. Groom) now says that he has not seen the judgment, and is not seized with its effect. Publicity has been given, however, to the decision of the Court, and we know that it overrides previous decisions as to our powers in this respect.

Mr Groom - We do not know the extent to which it overridesprevious decisions.

Mr CHARLTON -We know that it reverses the very decision which caused this Parliament to exclude State employees from the provisions of the original Act. If we do not take action now, it will probably he necessary for the Government later on to introduce a further amending Bill. Why should we not make complete' the Bill now before us? If the Minister has not all the information necessary to enable him to act, he should be able to promise us that, as soon as he has obtained a copy of the judgement, and has been able to study it, he will take steps to have an amendment of this kind introduced when the Bill is before another place.

Mr J H Catts - 'The matter is important enough to warrant the postponement of the further consideration of the Bill until the Minister has secured a copy of the judgment.

Mr CHARLTON -Quite so. When the Industrial Peace Bill was before us we were told that it was an urgent measure, and the guillotine was brought into operation in order topush it through within a week; Two weeks have since elapsed, yet the second reading of the Bill has not yet been agreed to in another place. It would seem that it is only 'in connexion with this House that thereis any hurry. Would it not be advisable for the Government to postpone the further consideration of the Bill for a day or two?

Mr Groom -i cannot hold up the whole Bill.

Mr CHARLTON - It would not involve a delay of more than a week. This is a very necessary amendment . State railway servants are anxious to go before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court; and now that the High Court has declared that we have the power to enable them to do so, we should not hesitate to exercisethat power. I venture to say that,even if we pass to-day the remaining stages of this Bill, two or three weeks will elapse before it is dealt with by another place.

Mr Richard Foster - If this amendment were made, it would not go through another place at all.

Mr CHARLTON - That is for the future to reveal. The High Court has held that we have power to make such a provision as this, and we should not hesitate to take action. We have told the people again and again that it is only because of lackof power that we have not dealt before with this matter. Now that the High Court has held that we have the power, what will beour position in the eyes of the people if we do not exercise it? We do not wish to force this question to a vote if the Ministry will promise to reconsider its position, with a view to giving full effect to our powers before the Bill leaves this Chamber. The Minister would be well advised to postpone the further consideration of the Bill until he is fully informed of the effect of the judgment.

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