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Thursday, 12 August 1920

Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - I move -

That the following definition 'be inserted: - " Organization " in reference to employees means an association of not less than 100 employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits whatever, together with such other persons, whether employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.

This amendment will bring the Bill into line with the Arbitration Act, which defines an association as - . . any trade or other union, or branch of any union, or any association or body composed of or representative of employers or em' ployees, or for furthering or protecting the interests of employers or employees.

This matter has been discussed at considerable length by honorable members who voted in favour of the last amendment. 'In ray opinion, the amendment I am now submitting is perfectly satisfactory, and in the practical working out of the measure there will be neither confusion nor room for confusion. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), speaking on the last amendment, put forward a hypothetical case. He stated that under the. Arbitration Act an association of 100 persons could apply for registration. Their application would be scrutinized by the proper authorities, and, if thought fit, granted. That association would then be registered under the Act, and be eligible for its benefits and liable to the penalties imposed thereunder. The honorable member proceeded to point out that, under this measure, there would be no registration and no scrutiny of associations which made application. All I have to say to that point is that if the honorable member thinks that machinery for registration' is desirable, and would of itself be a sufficient guarantee, such machinerycan be provided in the Bill. The honorable member omitted to point out that, under section 62 of the Arbitration Act, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare the Act to apply to any association, whether registrable under the Act or not.

Mr Blakeley - Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to include that section in this Bill, or to insert a definition of organization?

Mr HUGHES - That will not be required. I am dealing with the argument of the honorable member for Batman that, under the present Act, registration ia a safeguard for the union. I am pointing out that under that Act unregistered associations can be dealt with by proclamation. And as the Tribunal to be appointed under this Bill can only be brought into existence by the action of the Governor-General, the same machinery can deal with the association, and the same scrutiny as to its bona fides can be applied as under the Arbitration Act itself. I stated on the second reading that this Bill is not intended to supersede the Arbitration Act. It is intended to deal with special cases - those de facto disputes which from time to time paralyze the community, and for the settlement of which there must be machinery. The policy of the Government and, I hope, of Parliament, is to provide adequate means for peaceful legal redress of disputes. It is a reflection on this Legislature that the machinery provided so far has been inadequate. There have been de facto disputes, notably the gas strike, the seamen's strike, the engineers' strike, and the coal-miners' impending dispute, which were outside the purview of the Court, or, at any rate, were not dealt with by the Court. This Bill will provide machinery for dealing with what called extraordinary cases.

Mr Charlton - I take it that if unions desire to go to the Arbitration Court they will still be at liberty to do so, and that this Bill is intended only to meet cases in which the parties interested prefer to go to an Industrial Board ?

Mr HUGHES - That is so. Earlier in the day, in reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), I said that I did not pretend that this Bill will cover the whole of the industrial field as in my opinion it ought to be covered, but that it is a measure which exhausts our limited powers under the Constitution.

Mr Charlton - It is more of a conciliatory measure than anything else.

Mr HUGHES - Yes. The first part of it is wholly conciliatory. The second part is intended to deal with those extraordinary outbursts in the industrial world which may be likened to epidemics of disease in the physical world, such as bubonic plague and small-pox. Against the outbreak of such diseases special precautions have to be taken. Similarly, we have to adopt special precautions against these extraordinary industrial outbursts. We propose to deal with them by means of this Bill. I wish honorable members to entirely disabuse their minds of the idea that the measure is intended to supplant the machinery of the Arbitration Court. Nothing of the sort. It is intended to supplement it. It is designed to deal with those cases which are not dealt with by that tribunal. It seeks to remove every legitimate cause for direct action, so that no union with a grievance will be able to say that there is no Tribunal to which it can appeal. The fact that at this moment the coal miners have asked me to convene a Tribunal, which for all practical purposes will be a Tribunal under Part IV. of this Bill, is the best proof that such a measure is necessary. I tell the honorable, member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that I am willing to insert any amendment which will insure the protection of bond fide unions. They are assured that if they have a dispute the representatives upon the tribunal which will be empowered to settle it will be selected from their ranks. It would be midsummer night's madness to do anything else. The point to which I took exception in the amendment which has just been negatived was that the Trades Hall was to determine what was a bond fide union. We could hot agree to that.

Mr Brennan - Some disputes may arise between contending bodies of employees.

Mr HUGHES - In that case the Tribunal will be composed of representatives of either sides. We have to deal with a dispute. If I saw the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) get up and strike the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), which God for- bid ! I would have to deal with a de facto dispute. The Serjeant-at-Arms would be called in, but he would not have to do anything either to me or my colleagues - he would have to deal only with the two combatants. The Bill provides for exactly the same kind of remedy. Its object is perfectly obvious, and I ask honorable members to agree to the amendment.

Mr Makin - The right honorable gentleman has stated that the Bill is not intended to supersede the Arbitration Court?

Mr HUGHES - That is so.

Mr Makin - Does he not think that clause 17 will bring the Special Tribunals which are to be constituted for the settlement of industrial disputes, into conflict with the Arbitration Court ?

Mr HUGHES - But that clause is intended to deal only with disputes which arise as the result of the failure of the Arbitration Court to settle de facto dis.putes. Its provisions will became operative only after an award has been made by that Tribunal.

Mr Makin - Will it not interfere with legal etiquette?

Mr HUGHES - When we come to that clause, I shall be prepared to hear arguments in support of its modification. It was inserted in this Bill to prevent any union saying - as was said by the engineers - that it cannot go into the Arbitration Court, because that Court cannot vary an award. But, obviously, we must do something in cases of that sort. Of course, we can amend the Arbitration Act, and if we do that, necessity for clause 17 in its present form will disappear.

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