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Friday, 20 August 1920

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) . - I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), but I must say I was taken a little aback by certain of the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams). That honorable member, I think, wrongly blames the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, which was instituted in 1904 as the first Court of the kind in the history of this country. Because the Court does not al- ways work smoothly, the Judge is sometimes unjustly blamed for not being able to do the impossible. If the Court were made readily accessible, with the summary jurisdiction of an ordinary Police Court, we should not have these complaints. I aic sorry that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) is not here to give us the benefit of his experience as an official of the tramway employees organization. The costs df that organization in their recent trouble ran into five figures, made up of the subscriptions of 6d. and ls. per week, collected from the men in order to provide funds necessary to take them before the Court; and yet, when it became absolutely necessary to do something definite, the dispute was ended at once. A Conciliation and Arbitration Court should be a Court of justice, but it frequently becomes a Court of "law, where, on technical grounds, appellants are unable to obtain justice. We all hope that the measure before us will have the effect of doing away with industrial disputes.- The opinion is freely expressed outside that the measure was originally intended to remove Mr. Justice Higgins from his high position as President of the Court; but if such a thing were attempted I am sure the community generally would not permit it. I have studied Mr. Justice Higgins for over twenty-five years, and I do not think that any man has better graced the Bench, in spite of the fact that he has been largely " handcuffed " - tied down by legal enactments that should long ago have been amended. The cloak that fell from the dead shoulders of the late Chief Justice Higinbotham has found a worthy wearer in the person of Mr. Justice Higgins; and more than that I cannot say. It may be that when, perhaps a little heated, and with all his knowledge of the intricacies of the law, he has felt himself " cribb'd cabin'd, and confin'd," may have expressed himself in such a way as to hurt the feelings of some people. But the fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has received the indorsement of the most powerful organization in Australia, the Australian Workers Union, an organization which, in proportion to population, is greater than any in the United Kingdom, is a monument to the good it has done in this community. As the honorable member for South Sydney said, the Divorce, Equity, and other Courts do not concern the lives of the people of Australia so nearly as does the Arbitration Court. I trust that honorable members will take the advice of those better versed in the matters at issue than the majority of us, including myself, can possibly be. The Bill is capable of doing great good, and I shall strenuously oppose any efforts to interfere with the position of the present President of the Court.

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