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Wednesday, 25 August 1920

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister "for Works and Railways) .- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has tried to make it appear that the provision to which he takes exception is calculated to give relief in only isolated cases. The honorable member entirely misconstrues the clause. The words which he seeks to omit are, " seeking better industrial conditions." Is there- an organization registered under the Act that is not endeavouring to improve industrial conditions? Almost every organization is trying to do so. How many cases are there before the Court?

Mr Brennan - A great many, and the Government will not appoint additional Judges to deal with them.

Mr GROOM - A moment ago the honorable member said that this provision would apply to only one special case. He now says that there are a great many cases. The actual position is that he is resorting to a policy of bluff. A significant commentary on his statement is that many of the men to whom he referred as the leaders of the industrial organizations are in the employ of- the organizations themselves. They are not in private employment. They are organizers, and can go about seeking, as they are perfectly justified in doing, to improve the conditions of their fellows. The organizers and secretaries of the various unions are paid officials.

Sir Robert Best - But even if it were not so, their action on behalf of an organization would be the action of the organization itself.

Mr GROOM - That might be so. The words to which the honorable member takes exception are " an organization which is seeking better industrial conditions." The clause is not even confined to organizations which have filed a plaint, and are limited to the conditions of that plaint. The dissatisfaction might cover a wide area. The honorable member for Batman, at the outset, admitted that this was an improvement on the principal Act. Suddenly, however, waxing eloquent, he forgot that statement, and had not a good word to say for the clause. We shall be satisfied to accept the statement made by him before exhilaration destroyed his judgment.

Mr Brennan - The clause is good as far as it goes, but it doesnot go far enough.

Mr GROOM - It goes as far as we are entitled to go. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) desired to know whether the President of the Court had suggested any of the amendments of the principal Act for which this Bill provides. As a matter of fact, he made suggestions to within a fortnight of the introduction of the Bill. We have throughout been constantly in touch with him, and he has been making suggestions.

Mr Ryan - Are his suggestions incorporated in this Bill ?

Mr GROOM - As I told the House last week, many of them are. The Government did not call upon the President of the Court for a report, but the Department has been in touch with him, and had suggestions from him up to the time the Bill was launched. The Government, after all, must accept the responsibility for this Bill. Although the Department may be in touch with the President of the Court, and be glad to consider amendments of the principal Act suggested by him, the Government itself, in the end, must be responsible for the Bill. It accepts that responsibility.

Mr Ryan - Will the Minister be good enough to let us know what amendments of the principal Act included in this Bill were suggested by the learned Judge?

Mr GROOM - I do not think it would be just to do so. If I did, the honorable member might perhaps receive the shock of his life. ! Our desire is to convert the honorable member to a reasonable view of our legislation. We accept the responsibility for the Bill, and submit, upon their inherent merits, the amendments of the principal Act for which the Bill provides. We have gone a long way, and do not feel disposed to go further in so far as this clause is concerned.

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