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Friday, 6 August 1920


Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - A man wouldneed to be a thing of stone to resist the appeals that have been made to one's emotions and reason. I quite understand that honorable members generally appreciate the importance of this measure. I admit that there has been no obstruction, and that every honorable member has done his best to discuss the Bill upon its merits. But I would remind honorable members that the real reason for the urgency of this Bill was a request from the coal miners for a tribunal. Otherwise, it would not have been introduced at this juncture. We have been told that industrial unrest is growing, that it is like some volcano which is menacing and rumbling, and which will shortly burst forth into active eruption. I am sure that honorable members do not desire' to deliberate, and deliberate, and deliberate, so that at the very moment when we require to be possessed of an effective remedy for the evil, none will be at hand. There was never a time in the history of this country when such remedies as are possible in a civilized community to deal with industrial unrest, were more needed than they are to-day. It is admitted that the existing machinery is inadequate. Nobody has denied that. One of the parties to the industrial dispute which is impending, absolutely declines to go to the Arbitration Court. I am not going to defend its action. I am merely stating the facts. Honorable members have asked me to agree to further time being devoted to the consideration of this measure. My honorable friends opposite say that a great obligation is imposed upon them in dealing with this Bill; but their obligation is no greater than that which is imposed on honorable members upon thisside of the chamber. Whilst the ranks of organized Labour see in this measure something which they do not understand, and which, consequently, they fear, so, too, the ranks of organized capital also see in it something which is new, and' which they do not understand, and consequently they also fear it. I hope thatin Committee honorable members will recollect that the possibilities of useful amendments to this Bill are very few. The measure is one whichis primarily designed to bring the rival parties to any industrial dispute together. Any amendment which will have the effect of bringing them together more effectively will necessarily be a good one ; whilst any amendment which prevents them coming together will, be a bad one. When we come to deal with industrial dispute, apart from the stand-point of philosophy, we find that the trouble is a very simple one. Industrial quarrels are just quarrels between conflicting interests, or between rival sections, and we have to try to settle them. Now there are various ways of settling quarrels. Some of these I do not attempt myself, but refer to some of my honorable friends opposite, whose physique is more fitted to that kind of business than is my own. These are appeals to force with which I have nothing to do. This Bill provides machinery for conciliation, and opportunities for the voice of reason to be heard. However, I will give the House this assurance: that if at half-past 3 o'clock on Friday next we have not exhausted the possibilities of useful discussion in regard to this Bill, we will go on until we have done so.


Mr Charlton - That is not the point. The discussion may finish by the time indicated by the Prime Minister on Friday. But suppose that we are discussing an amendment of great importance. when the time allotted for the consideration of a particular section of the Bill expires', what will become of our arguments?


Mr HUGHES - Of course, all things are born out of the womb of time. We are not here for eternity.


Mr Charlton - We shall complete the consideration of the Bill just as quickly if the Prime Minister will allow free discussion upon it.


Mr HUGHES - The miners have asked for this measure. Now, instead of coming out like men and saying, " This is what we wanted," they recognise .that if they get it . they will not be able to strike. That is the view of one of their number-


Mr Charlton - The . right honorable gentleman is entirely wrong. He is prejudiced upon the matter.


Mr HUGHES - I say that it is so.


Mr Charlton - If the right honorable gentleman will give us a reasonable time to discuss the measure, probably he will get a settlement of the coal-mining trouble.


Mr HUGHES - I do not know whether that is so or not. I hope that it is. I have said that honorable members will be granted a reasonable time for the consideration of the Bill. But obviously the measure must become law in time for it to become of some use in the threatened trouble. The next stage in the consideration of the Bill will take us up to Part III. I do not know why honorable members desire such a long time to discuss this part of the measure, since it deals only with the powers of the proposed Councils, which are of an advisory character, pure and simple. The part of the Bill which has relation to industrial unrest as an impending and menacing force, is Part IV., which deals with special and local tribunals.


Mr Tudor - Before we reach that, we shall have dealt with the definitions, which are all-important.


Mr HUGHES - Definitions I Honorable members may have any definition that they like. We ore not going to waste time over words. My honorable friends [Wl] opposite are always thinking that somewhere in Government measures there is a catch, although they cannot actually see it. But I have taken the definition which is embodied in this Bill holus bolus from the Arbitration Act 1911. It was inserted there at my instance, when I was AttorneyGeneral in the Fisher Government, and its insertion was greeted with loud applause from the ranks of Tuscany, lt was good enough for my honorable friends then ; it ought to be good enough for them now. Instead, however, it evokes only hostile criticism. 'My honorable friends opposite want organized labour to be recognised. I have told the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that it will be recognised.


Mr Brennan - I have had enough of this.


Mr HUGHES - I do not know whether the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was a member of the Labour party at the time of which T am speaking. But I introduced the definition in question only after it had received mature consideration in the Labour Caucus. It was inserted in the Arbitration Act 1911, and it certainly carried us a very long way. I challenge honorable members to cite me a single case that has come before the Arbitration Court during the past six or seven years to which any body but organized labour has been a party.


Mr Blakeley - Under the Arbitration Act only organizations can get to the Court; but the Bill allows both, persons and organizations to get-to the tribunals for which it provides.


Mr HUGHES - I am willing to make the provisions of the Bill conform exactly with those of the Act in that respect. If honorable members will take my advice, they will, since we are likely to come to an agreement on definitions, spend very little time on its discussion as far as Part III., and devote the rest of the time available to the remaining clauses.


Mr Charlton - If the honorable member is disposed to meet the Committee, as he says he is, the Bill may go through in one day. My contention is that there should be no limitation of discussion in regard to its various Darts.


Mr HUGHES - The Committee will find that I shall not burke debate. No doubt, honorable members on both sides are trying to do their best with a difficult problem, and that being so, I shall not stop the discussion of it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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