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Friday, 13 August 1920

Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - I thought this provision for a compulsory conference would be regarded as one of the most valuable parts of the Bill. It is admitted that the Arbitration Court has done much good work by exercising its power to compel the parties to meet. I said last night, in reply to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), that the most valuable part of this measureis the fact that it brings the parties together at a conference table. Paragraph b of this clause is to enable a tribunal to deal with a dispute, which has been referred to a compulsory conference without a settlement having been reached, thus giving the tribunal the same jurisdiction as the Court has in relation to such disputes. If that provision is taken away this Bill will at once assume a menacing rather than a conciliatory form. It will say, in effect, " There shall be no attempt at conciliation; we shall at once bring you before the bar of justice and make you do a certain thing." The honorable member has suggested that this provision takes away the right of the union to go to the Arbitration Court, but I hope he will not think that such is the intention. This measure will not touch any union that wishes to approach the Court ; it will only be used where unions will not go to that Tribunal. It will have nothing to do with those who will go to it. We must have some remedy where unions will not go to the Court, and the first remedy to which we propose to have recourse is that of conciliation through a compulsory conference. Power is given to bring the parties together and leave them to endeavour to reconcile their differences. I hope that the honorable member will not take objection to the powers given to a Special Tribunal under paragraphb.

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