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Thursday, 2 September 1920

Mr MAXWELL (Fawkner) .- I claim that I am able to approach this subject without bias.

Mr.Ryan. -We all do that.

Mr MAXWELL - No doubt we all endeavour to do it. But, unlike some honorable members opposite, who claim that they represent only one section of the community, I hold that I represent all sections of the community, including both employers and employees. I am sent here by employers and employees, and my instructions really are that, when any question arises which affects the interests of either or both of those classes, I am to do what is fair. That is all that I am pledged to do. In regard to this amendment, I say that whoever suggests such a proposition must accept the onus of showing that it is necessary. I do not recall that, in the course of the introduction of this measure, the present amendment was in any way foreshadowed; yet it is an exceedingly important one. It is evidently an afterthought. I have listened most carefully to the Minister (Mr. Groom), and so far as I can gather, he has advanced no reason why the amendment should be accepted. Consideration of the amendment does not, from my view-point, involve a discussion upon whether or not there shall be a forty-four-hour week rather than a forty-eight-hour week. The question is, whether that matter should be determined by one Judge or more. Generally speaking, the more responsibility one can place upon the shoulders of a Judge, the better, where he has to determine such a matter as that which is involved in this amendment. No reason has been proffered by the Minister in support of the proposal that the question of the number of hours to be worked in an industry should be determined by three Judges rather than by one. Itis a matterof common knowledge, in our Courts of justice, that when a Judge is impressed with the difficulty of a. question which he has to determine, he frequently consults his brother Judges. Since Deputy Judges of the Arbitration Court have now been appointed, there is no reason 'why - if ona of the Judges has to determine such a point as that in relation to the number of hours to be worked in an industry - he should not consult his colleagues

Mr Riley - The Judge also has the power to call in assessors to advise and assist him.

Mr MAXWELL - That may be; but I do not see that there is .anything peculiar in the question of the number of hours te differentiate it from other factors, such as the rate of wages, or the conditions under which work is to be carried on.

Mr Ryan - If there is, the Minister has not shown it.

Mr MAXWELL - There may be a vital distinction; but, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) points out, it has not been shown. My mind is still open. I merely desire, before being called upon to cast my vote, to have my mind fully informed; .and, at present, I see no reason why the amendment should be accepted. I repeat that it is a very important one. It seeks to impose a restriction on the power of the Judges of the Arbitration Court. At present they have the power to determine this question; but now it is sought, under cover of the amendment, to withdraw that power, and. to that extent, to restrict the power of the Judges; which is a serious matter. I do not believe - in determining a question of this kind - in dividing responsibility. If the matter of the number of hours to be worked in an industry comes before a Judge, we should place upon his shoulders the responsibility of making his determination; and, if the Judge finds that it is too great a responsibility, let him say so. But I am not aware that any Judge has indicated that he feels the burden of making such a determination to be too great.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I should think that the matters to be determined in this inquiry would be much further reaching in their effects upon the community at large than most of the questions being decided by the High Court.

Mr MAXWELL - Hours of work comprise only one of the many conditions to be established under which an industry is to be carried on.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The honorable member holds that the power should reside, as far as possible, in one man. That appears to be an argument for the abolition of the High Court.

Mr MAXWELL - I do not think so. Where difficult questions of law are involved it is necessary to have more than one Judge. Where we propose to establish a legal precedent it is well that the matter should be determined by the full strength of the Bench; but where we have to determine a question of this kind - which is not a legal question at all - then, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has said, the duty of the Judge is simply to listen to the evidence put forward by each side, and to make up his mind, and shoulder the responsibility of determining what, upon the evidence adduced, is the fair thing.

Taking a broad view, I share the opinions expressed by several honorable members, that there is, rightly or wrongly, a suspicion in the minds of a great- many people that this proposition is aimed at the President of the Arbitration Court. Now, that is indirect. I do not like doing things in an indirect fashion; it involves special pleading. I have not yet heard the Treasurer (Sir ' Joseph Cook) address himself to the question; I hope he will do so, because, if any light is to be thrown upon it, it is his duty to furnish that light. Meanwhile, I repeat that unless I hear better reasons why the Committee should accept the amendment, it will be my duty to vote against it.

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