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Friday, 13 August 1920

Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - I shall deal in a moment with the suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks). The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) proposes to delete clause 28. Let me put this to the honorable member: An employer is summoned before a Court, and refuses to appear. If there is no penalty for such a refusal he can continue to flout the Court with impunity.

Mr Brennan - This is the biggest fine for contempt of Court I have ever heard of.

Mr HUGHES - I think that what the honorable member for Hunter has in mind is that there should be no penalty for breach of an agreement or award; but those are not the only violations of the law with which we might be called upon to deal. We have to get evidence, and if people will not come to the Court how can we get it? It may be necessary to put certain questions. We may wish to examine a man as to his selling price. We may desire to say. " You state that the fair price is 17s. 9d. ; but now, as a matter of fact, how much is it?" He may know what we desire to ask, and may refuse to appear. I suppose that, if he were at liberty to do so without consequences, he would not appear in the circumstances, if he had any sense.

Mr Charlton - May I make a suggestion to meet the point the right honorable member is arguing? I am quite prepared to prescribe a penalty for any person who refuses to obey a summons. For instance, in sub-clause 3 of clause 19 provision is made that any person summoned shall attend a conference and continue his attendance as directed by the person or tribunal summoning the conference. I should be satisfied to add to that a provision for a penalty upon any one disobeying the summons. But clause 28 is a drag-net provision, covering penalties in all sorts of cases, and for breaches of regulations of which we have no knowledge.

Mr HUGHES -I am afraid that we cannot overcome the difficulty in that way. I shall refer, not to a strike, but to a lock-out. We know that a lock-out is a monstrous and abominable crime, whilst a strike is that resolute indication of the onward march of the people towards the goal of eternal liberty. What the honorable member proposes is that for the crime of a lock-out there should be no penalty. Shame! Shame! Where are the banner-bearers of Bolshevism when such things are said? They are tied to the chariot-wheels of Capital. They are proposing to allow Capital to do with impunity just what it pleases. No, we must have penalties. How do Lenin and Trotsky deal with these matters? They say, " Work. If you won't work,-- ."

Honorable members know what follows.

Mr Considine - The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has evidently been influenced by the Russian terms to the Poles.

Mr HUGHES - The only poll that interests me is the electoral poll; and, thank God, that is not imminent. I quite understand what the honorable member for Hunter has in view, and I am prepared to meet him this far: He says that we do not know what the regulations under this Bill will provide for. I admit that, and I am, therefore, prepared, in regard to the imposition of penalties, to adopt the regulations of the Arbitration Court. They have been in force for years, and honorable members know what they are. They would not hurt anybody. The honorable member has himself said that under them fines to the extent of £5,000 were imposed, and that npt a penny of that money was collected.

Mr Charlton - That was under a State Act.

Mr HUGHES - Well, I do not know that, under the 'Commonwealth law, we have done any better. I remember that my union was fined a great deal of money, and if the accounts of the union are inspected I do not think that any item will be found on the debit side of the ledger to represent the payment of that fine. I do not know how they do these things, but they are done.

We must be a'ble to secure evidence, and if a man absolutely refuses to give evidence, and ignores or flouts the Court, we must be able to deal with him. I know of no other way to deal with such cases than by the imposition of penalties. The clause refers to a contravention of the Act or of the regulations under the

Act, and I am prepared, so far as the imposition of penalties is concerned, to agree that the regulations specified shall be those adopted and in use by the Arbitration Court of the Commonwealth. That is, I -think, .a fair compromise.

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