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Friday, 13 August 1920

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .- I think it will be admitted that the members on this side of the House have kept their promise respecting the measure. We said at the outset that we had no intention of obstructing it, but that we objected to the application of the guillotine to its discussion, because that might shut out the consideration of important amendm ents. I am pleased that we have been able practically to get through the Bill before the guillotine was applied. The Bill has emerged from Committee a much better measure than it was. Many improvements have been made in it. As I said on the second reading, the establishment of Local Boards capable of dealing promptly with disputes as they occur, is a step in advance in our industrial legislation, and I think something that the community is looking for. My regret is that the Government did not comply more fully with the wishes of the Opposition for the amendment of the Bill. Had it accepted the amendment of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) gave notice, recognising the trade unions and industrial organizations of the country as those which should be represented on the Tribunals appointed, and had the penalty clauses been omitted, the Opposi-. tion couldhave accepted the measure, and recommended it to the workers outside. We showed that the amendment was vital to the success of the Bill, and did our best to impress the Government with the need for it. I repeat what I have said in this connexion. In passing industrial legislation, we are dealing with the existing organizations, not with organizations that may spring into existence at a time of industrial trouble. From the beginning, it is the industrial unions that have been recognised in connexion with the settlement of disputes. That being so, I do not know why objection was taken to their recognition under the Bill. The industrial organizations are the parliaments of the workers. The members of the Trades and Labour Councils, and the officials of the unions, are the representatives of Labour, just as we here are the representatives of our constituents. They have won their position by their abilities, and it is their duty to look after the industrial interests of their fellow men. Why then should we refuse to recognise them when we are trying to secure industrial peace? It is for the organized workers that we are passing this measure. The Committee made a fatal mistake in negativing the amendment, and I must vote against the third reading of the Bill because of that action, and because of the penalty clauses. Nevertheless, I believe that this measure, when passed, will provide machinery which should be used to prevent the industrial crisis that appears to be brewing. The men who desire a Special Tribunal to settle their troubles quickly now have an opportunity to get such a Tribunal. The leaders of the men are often maligned, it being made to appear that they provoke strikes; but we have now provided a Tribunal for the settlement of disputes which will be constituted of representatives of the workers, representatives of the employers, and an independent chairman, and it can deal with the trouble promptly. I hope and believe that this machinery will be availed of by the miners. The big, strong, militant organizations, such as that of the miners, are not injured by the refusal to give them the recognition in the Bill which we have contended they should have, but the smaller organizations are injured; and the Prime Minister will do well to have inserted in the Senate a provision recognising the Trades Han Councils and the industrial unions in making appointments to the Tribunals provided for by the Bill. If he does that, and eliminates the penalty clauses, the measure will be, in my opinion, the best that has yet been passed by an,y Australian Parliament, Commonwealth or State. The concession for which we asked was a small one, and it has been demanded by trade organizationsin all parts of Australia. It is only such organizations that will come under the Bill. Why, then, should we create the suspicion that the measure is providing for unknown circumstances, and the representation of non-unionists, men who in tin es of peace do nothing to help their fellows, but when industrial trouble arises, do their best to injure them.

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