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Thursday, 2 September 1920

Mr GABB (Angas) . - I oppose the amendment, and desire to refer particularly to the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who said he would not like to leave the matter under discussion to a decision by any one mind. When the honorable member voted for the Industrial Peace Bill did he not realize that he was casting his vote to place in the hands of one man the power .of deciding upon hours of employment and every other industrial condition? There will be four representatives of employees and four of employers on a Tribunal. Each side, naturally, will stand by its own views; and, the numbers being equal, it is obvious that the decision, however it may be arrived at, and in respect of whatever subject-matter, will be the decision of one man, namely, the Chairman.

Mr Bruce - Does the honorable member say that a Tribunal will consist of one man, namely, the Chairman alone?

Mr GABB - The honorable member must know full well that that is what it will amount to when a deadlock has arisen between equal numbers of representatives of each side. This comparison reveals the inconsistency of the Government in introducing the amendment. What is the reason for this afterthought ? If the Government will not furnish the reason, honorable members must look for it. In my brief experience of political life I have learned that it is not that which appears on the surface which is the governing factor; it is not that which is said that one must take notice of ; but one must try to find the motive lying behind words and actions. I suggest that the reason for the introduction of the amendment is that it will be regarded as a form of insult levelled at the President of the Arbitration Court. If the President has been .talented enough, and fair enough, to adjudicate in regard to all industrial matters which have arisen in years -past, surely the matter of determining upon hours of employment is not beyond his sole powers of adjudication. How otherwise can the President view the present proposition than in the light of an insult? Either that is the reason for its introduction, or there is ah even more sinister one. It may be .that the employers, who, after all, are behind the Government, fear that this man, having proved himself fair and just in regard to all matters industrial in the past, will reveal himself to be equally fair and just when called upon to determine the matter of hours of employment, and,, thus, such a determination may not be in the direction the employers desire. Hence, Mr. Justice Higgins is to be relieved of the sole responsibility of arriving at a determination. That may be one of the main reasons ; but there may be still another. Is it that the Government desire to find work for the Arbitration Court Judges? In the near future the Arbitration Court will be relieved of much of the work which has hitherto congested it. All Government employees are shortly to be taken from under its purview. Further, there are to be "fresh appointments of Deputy Judges; and, still further, the establishment of Tribunals under the Industrial. Peace Bill will considerably reduce the volume of work in the Court. Is the amendment intended to provide employment sufficient to keep the Judges going? And how is the matter of hours of employment to be decided? Are three J Judges to be called upon to give a decision upon the broad general aspect? Are they to 'decide that so many hours shall comprise the working week in respect of every industry ? A fair working week in relation to one avocation might be altogether too long and heavy a term with regard to another. If a general rule is not to be established, there remains the alternative that, upon every occasion. when the matter of hours may crop up in the course of a hearingbefore the Court over which one Judge is presiding, that one Judge will not be able to handle the phase of the matter bearing upon hours of employment, but must call in two of his colleagues. If that is to be the procedure, then, instead of expediting the work of the Arbitration Court the very opposite effect will have been achieved. I appeal to the Government not to push the amendment at this stage. If they do they will make it only the harder for those representatives of industrialists who believe in the arbitration principle to uphold that ideal, and to deal with direct actionists in trade organizations. Honorable members on this side, who represent the employees, have, in my opinion, made concessions to the interests of the other side. We have given way in the matter of the appointment of Deputy Judges and of the variation of awards. Moreover, wehave done so at a stage when Arbitration Court decisions - now that the high cost of living has probably nearly reached its summit - are more likely to be given in favour of the employers. We desired the appointment of Deputy Judges and the conferring of power to vary awards at a time when decisions of the Arbitration Court were generally being given in favour of the workers. Now we have made our concessions when the tide has begun to turn, and when - as I have said - the employers are more likely to be favoured by the facilitating of Arbitration Court business. Therefore, I trust that the Government will not now seek to " put the boot in" by the proposed new clause.

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