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Thursday, 12 August 1920

Mr BRUCE (Flinders) .- We have now reached a vital part of the Bill involving the determination of a number of matters, and I shall need to have more light thrown on this clause, which provides that Special Tribunals may be called into being by the GovernorGeneral, before I agree to vote for it either as it stands or as proposed to be amended. Part IV. of the Bill may be taken to completely cut away the ground from Under the Conciliation and. Arbitration Court. It may be regarded as doing away with the principle of arbitration, as exercised for many years by Arbitration Courts in Australia, and substituting for it this new type of Special Tribunal. If there is any idea of appointing Special

Tribunals to deal with every industrial question that is. likely to arise, I shall vote against the clause, since it would mean putting an end to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. As the honorable member for Darling has suggested, no self-respecting Judge would remain on the Arbitration Court Bench knowing that. a Special Tribunal had power to set aside his awards. If, however, the Bill has merely been introduced because our power to put in order the whole of our machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes in Australia is limited under the Constitution, then I am not sure that we cannot accept the principle of Special Tribunals.

Mr Brennan - This Bill does not put us in any better position so far as our constitutional limitations are concerned.

Mr BRUCE - I am not suggesting that it does. I am merely suggesting that, instead of amending the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which would appear to be the reasonable course to take, the Government have introduced this measure because, owing to our constitutional limitations, we cannot legislate for the settlement of industrial disputes from a national stand-point as weshould like to do. If that is so - if this is 'merely a proposal to provide special measures to deal with special cases - no exception can be taken to it. If we can obtain from the Prime Minister an assurance that the Government, which is given power under this clause to create Special Tribunals, does not intend to take practically every matter out of the hands of the Arbitration Court, but merely proposes to use the power in cases of great industrial disturbance, when it is necessary to act, and act quickly, I am prepared to accept the clause, with this one proviso, that I do not accept the Bill as a finalized measure for the settlement of industrial disputes in this country. At best it can be no more than a measure introduced to tide us over until such time as the Convention sits, and in its wisdom, I trust, gives us full power to deal with the whole industrial question.

Mr Cunningham - What will happen if the Government which gives the assurance goes out of power?

Mr BRUCE - That would be unfortunate; but I am prepared to take the risk and I am not nervous. We are giving this power to the Government to appoint Special Tribunals, and I will vote for the proposal only on an assurance from the Government that, while they are in power - and this is all the assurance the Government can give - they will not use it except to appoint the Tribunals in circumstances of serious industrial or threatened serious industrial unrest. If the Government is in a position to give that assurance, I am prepared to vote for the clause.

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