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Friday, 13 August 1920

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- I quite realize with thehonorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) the very farreaching effects of paragraph b, because, although paragraph a limits the jurisdiction of a Special Tribunal to cases brought before it by the parties, paragraph b when read together with clause 19, which gives the power to a Special Tribunal to convene a compulsory conference, will open the whole field of an industrial dispute to consideration by such a Tribunal. However, I rise to call particularattention to the proviso at the end of clause 15, which reads as follows : -

Provided that no dispute as to which a plaint is pending in the Court and the hearing has commenced shall be referred to a Special Tribunal.

This practically limits the prohibition, as one may call it, against interference by a Special Tribunal to a comparatively small number of industrial disputes out of the total number which are under consideration by the Arbitration Court. Not all disputes come before that Court by means of plaints. In practice we find that a great majority of them do notoriginate in that way, but come to the Court following upon compulsory conferences. ' Furthermore, the Conciliation and Arbitration. Act stipulates quite a number of ways in which disputes may come before the Court other than by the method of plaint, the various ways being set out in section 19 of the Act, which reads as follows: -

The Court shall have cognisance, for purposes of prevention and settlement, of the following industrial disputes:

(a)   All industrial disputes which are certified to the Court by the Registrar as proper to be dealt with by it in the public interest.

(b)   All industrial disputes which are submitted to the Court by an organization, or by an association registered for the time being as an organization', by plaint.

(c)   All industrial disputes with which any State industrial authority, or the Governor in Council of a State in which there is no State industrial authority, requests the Court to deal ; and

(d)   All industrial disputes as to which the President has held a conference under section 16a of this Act, and as to which no agreement has been reached, and which the President has thereupon referred to the Court.

The only matter referred to in the proviso to clause 15 in the Bill are those which come under paragraph b of this section of the Act, and in actual practice the most general method by which disputes may be brought before the Arbitration Court are those referred to in paragraph d of the section. Any number of disputes may be pending before the Court, and the Bill will give a Special Tribunal the power to "butt in" upon the consideration of them if only the limitation contained in the proviso to clause 15 is retained. Apparently the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) desires that the powers of Special Tribunals shall be exercised collaterally and on parallel lines with the work of the Arbitration Court, and from the fact that this proviso has been inserted in clause 15, I should suppose that he does not intend that a case actually in course of being dealt with by that Court shall be interfered with by any Special Tribunal against the will of the Court it may be, and even, apparently, against the wish of the parties.

Mr Hughes - What the honorable member says is very true. This is the use to which the clause may be put, but the intent of the Bill is to deal with those cases the Court cannot or does not deal with.

Mr BRENNAN - Then I cannot see why the proviso should exclude the Special Tribunal from dealing with only a limited number of eases which are before the Court.

Mr Hughes - We tell the parties to go to the Court, pointing out that it is the place where they must get their remedy, but some unions will not do so. On the other hand, a de facto dispute arises with which we have to deal, and subject to clause 17, we tell the parties that we cannot hear them if their case has been taken to the Court because they have elected to go to the Court.

Mr BRENNAN - I quite agree with what the right honorable gentleman has said, but it does not cure the difficulty I have raised ; on the other hand, it rather bears out what I have been saying. Where a case has been brought before the Court by means of a plaint, it may not be considered by a Special Tribunal while it is pending before the Court. It may not be a case in which the Court has failed; the Court may be proceeding quite satisfactorily with the hearing of the case, and the parties may be quite satisfied to remain under its jurisdiction. In such circumstances, so long as the case has originated by means of a plaint, the Special Tribunal cannot interfere with it, but if a compulsory conference has been held under the powers given by the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the President of the Court has referred the matter into Court, as he may do, without the necessity of proceeding by way of a plaint, and the parties are quite satisfied to go before the Court, being so referred to it, the proviso to clause 15 will not prevent a Special Tribunal from interfering in such a case. I have already quoted section 19 of the Act to show that there are a great many other cases in which disputes may be brought before the Arbitration Court, and the Special Tribunal may interfere with them. So long as the Court is functioning apparently in a satisfactory way, surely the Prime Minister does not desire that Special Tribunals shall be invited to interfere with it.

Mr Hughes - No.

Mr BRENNAN - Then I invite the right honorable gentleman to consider the effect of the proviso to which I have drawn attention. He will see that it does not protect the Court to that extent.

Mr Hughes - If there are fifty cases filed in the Arbitration Court, and a plaint is pending in five, would the honorable member suggest that if a dispute arose in an industry, the case of which was the thirty-fifth on the list, and the parties said they could not and would not wait any longer, a Special Tribunal should not act in such a case?

Mr BRENNAN - It might act in such a case; there is nothing to prevent it; but under the proviso a Special Tribunal may interfere with a case which is in actual course of hearing in the Arbitration Court unless it has been initiated by means of a plaint. There may be something in the view that delay may take place in regard to a large number of cases formally originated by means of plaints; but I invite the attention of the right honorable gentleman to the fact that the very cases in which he empowers a Special Tribunal to interfere are those which have already been referred to the Court for prompt action as the result of compulsory conferences.

Mr Groom - Under the Act cases may originate in several different ways, and we only prevent the Special Tribunal from . interfering with those which have originated by means of a plaint. The honorable member's contention is that in all cases where a hearing has been commenced, irrespective of the way in which they have originated and irrespective of whether the Court has gone on with them, the Special Tribunal should not interfere.

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