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Wednesday, 4 August 1920

Mr HUGHES (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) -I regret that Icannot agree to that course. Only the other day the honorable member chided me for not having introduced sooner remedial legislation for the settlement of disputes. I understand that it is not he personally who is now asking that the discussion of the measure be deferred, but organized Labour outside.

Mr.Tudor.-Hear, hear!

Mr HUGHES -Itis impossible both to proceedwith legislation and to defer itsconsideration at the one and the same time. . I wish to stress thepoint that, at least three months have elapsed since I invited the representatives of organized Labour and of organised Capital to meet in conference to discussthe best means of settling industrial strife and promoting industrial peace.Oneimportant Labour organization the Melbourne Trades Hall- rejected the invitation, and neither party has evinced any particular anxiety to give effect to it. This Legis lature, however, is charged with a duty which it may not evade merely because parties outside evade their duty. Organized Labour could not hold a conference for, I think, at the very least six weeks.

Mr Tudor - Three weeks.

Mr HUGHES - A conference meeting within three weeks would not be an instructed body; it would have no authority. To confer the necessary authority all the bodies that were to be represented must first meet, and discuss the matter, before their representatives could be definitely instructed what to do. An uninstructed conference would have to refer its conclusions to , the respective bodies of which it was representative, to be considered by them in their turn, and thus at least three months would elapse before we could know Labour's attitude towards the measure. There would be the same delay if a special conference representative of Capital were called to consider the Bill. Curiously enough, this very day I have had a request for delay from representatives of both sections of the community.

Mr Tudor - I made the request on behalf of the industrialists.

Mr HUGHES - Yes:; and another honorable gentleman has informed me that the Chambers of Manufactures throughout the country are greatly perturbed about the Bill. This intimation that both parties desire the deferring of its consideration, because each thinks it against their interests, is the best evidence that they are mistaken. Parliament must proceed with the measure. A conferencewill be called, and will meet as soon as theparties are ready; that it did not meet long ago is not the fault of the Government. At this conference both parties must be represented if opinions of any value to Parliament are to result. Should the conference approve of the measure, and suggest amendments, they will be made law; but in the meantime the Bill mustbe passed. We must have a means for appointing tribunals to deal with disputes. It is the intention of the Government to avoid uncertainty in industrial matters by more upon its war-time powers. It must, therefore, havestatutory authority to appoint tribunals in order that it may fulfil its election promises, to afford Labour an opportunity of settling its disputes speedily and economically.

Mr Tudor - The conference you are now refering to is not that for which I have asked.

Mr HUGHES - No; I am referring to the conference of both parties that I have already summoned. There is, of course, not the slightest objection to the holding of a preliminary conference by Labour. My proposal is that this legislation should pass, the Government promising to give effect to any recommendation of the conference modifying the measure. We want a measure which will reflect the opinion of those whose interests are chiefly concerned.

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