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Thursday, 12 August 1920

Mr CUNNINGHAM (Gwydir) . - It is apparent to any one 'having experience of the Arbitration Court that the amendment will provide no redress for employees as a whole, or get us over the main defect of the Bill, namely, that which I might term the judiciary to be set up by the Bill, in which provision is made for the representation of organizations which may be non-representative of the great body of the workers. A Judge delivers awards in the Arbitration Court, but, under this Bill, the determining factors in arriving at a judgment will be the proposed councils, which may comprise representatives of non-representative organizations. We have to consider how these councils may be utilized to the detriment of employeesgenerally. If amendments are not inserted in the Bill definitely setting out the position of organizations, we may have on a council, which is part of the judiciary set up by the Bill, three representatives ' of employees' organizations, who are at direct variance with one another.

Mr Hughes - A Council cannot give decisions.

Mr CUNNINGHAM - But a Council may conduct an inquiry, the tone of which may be of a character that will interfere with the whole of the industry concerned. If chambers of commerce or employers' federations are prepared to start " scab " organizations, they may secure the representation of those bodies on a council, and gain a distinct majority which will enable the inquiry to be so conducted as to give an entirely erroneous idea of the conditions prevailing in any particular industry. We all know that in the past employers' organizations have endeavoured to nullify the Arbitration Act, and that the unions have only been able to make it at all effective through the fact that it was a Judge who presided in the Arbitration Court. If " scab " organizations, by securing representation on the proposed tribunals orcouncils, can work in with the " bosses " against the interests of the main body of the workmen, the consequence will be that the men will not work under the decisions of these tribunals, and confusion will only be made worse confounded. I hope that provision will be made in the Bill so that the status of the employees' organizations on these councils will be placed beyond doubt. If they are not, the whole measure is doomed to failure, and instead of being conducive to industrial peace, will be an incentive to industrial unrest, if this other class of organization is permitted to assume . any position of authority in connexion with the proposed Tribunals. Personally, I think the real cause of industrial unrest lies deeper than can be reached by such a Bill as this. It is not the lack of machinery to deal with disputes. It is the excessively high cost of living, and the fact that,owing to the untrammelled operations of profiteering, a wage which may be a living wage to-day may be much less than a living wage in a week's time; and no matter how comprehensive this Bill may be made, it will be quite ineffective in respect to bringing about industrial peace, if we cannot probe down and remove this real and fundamental cause of existing industrial unrest.

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