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Thursday, 3 June 1926

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -BROCKMAN. - I have never thought so. Parliament is not the proper authority to determine whether 48 hours, 44 hours, 40 hours, or, indeed, any particular number is the correct number of hours to be worked in any industry. Moreover, it is very doubtful whether any person can lay down that any particular number of hours is the right number per week to be worked in all industries. We may say, in respect of an industry, after a proper examination of the facts in connexion with it, that 48 or 44 hours is the correct number. I am not here to say what is the correct number to be worked in any industry, but the proper number of hours to be worked in an industry is capable of being established after proper economic inquiry into that industry. If Senator Elliott made that his test, and if there was a proper examination, he would be on sound ground. But, in this matter, he is not on safe ground, because who is going to say - I am not, and no other honorable senator who really has the interests of Australia at heart can say - whether 48, or, indeed, any number of hours is the right number to be applied to all industries. In my view, it cannot be done. We have only to examine the experiments that were made in America in connexion with various industries to appreciate the difficulties. We had an interesting address from Senator Millen several years ago on this subject. That honorable senator demonstrated that even as low as 34 hours a week, was the proper economic number to be worked iu some industries. But to lay down a general principle, which I regret to say Senator Elliott in this instance suggested we should do, is, at all events, a very dangerous precedent.

Senator Kingsmill - It is being done.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Some honorable senators opposite are doing it. Nevertheless they are wrong.

Senator Findley - Then the honorable senator contends that arbitration court judges are wrong when they make their awards.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - No. I hold that if, after a proper inquiry into the economic condition of an industry, arbitration court judges determine that 48 hours is the correct number of hours to . be worked in that industry, they are probably right. They certainly know more about it than I do, or any other honorable senator does, because they have made an inquiry.

Senator Needham - The honorable senator qualified his assertion by saying " 'probably ' they are right."

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I am not in a. position to say whether they are right or wrong. I do not know. But I am prepared to accept the decision of the courts that we have established for the purpose of making these inquiries.

Senator Lynch - But, as a general principle, is it right to extend favours in one direction when you cannot extend them in others?


Senator Lynch - That is Senator Elliott's contention.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - But favours to one industry may mean 44 hours or less, and to another 48 or less. I am not going to lay down any general principle. My contention is merely that there should be a careful examination in respect of each industry, and that the proper number of hours having been found, on economic grounds, they should be prescribed, but not before that has been done.

Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow - It is being done all over Australia without inquiry.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I agree; but it is being improperly done. This is a matter of which I have some knowledge, and I thought it was my duty to express my views on an issue which, I think, is . very material. I trust that I have not succeeded in stirring up another hornet's nest, and that we shall not have another discussion on this particular point. We have, I think, gone far enough.

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