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Thursday, 2 September 1920

Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) . - I do not agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) in his statement that the amendment is foreign to the spirit of our arbitration laws. I think it is specially relevant. From the stand-point of the wisdom of legislation in this direction, there should be greater uniformity than exists to-day. I listened with interest to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, and, particularly, to those of his remarks in which he related that he saw no serious objection to there being three Judges to determine a vitally important question such as this. That is the whole point. At present, we have the President of the Court and one Deputy.. Either of those Judges may take whatever view he, in his discretion, thinks proper. Wow it is proposed to increase the number of Deputies, so that the President, and as many Judges as may be appointed, will each have his separate views. Thus, an extraordinary anomaly may arise in which there may be no co-ordination, but a collection of separate views held by individual Judges concerning a vitally important question. No honorable member has sought to discount the gravity of this matter. It is truly fundamental, and one on which there should be uniformity of view on the part of the Judges. It is for the Parliament to overcome the anomaly - which in future will be accentuated - of there being divergent judicial opinions. I am aware of the objection concerning pending cases; and it is a serious objection, because some cases have been partly heard and others are almost completed. It will be anomalous if, during the hearing of these cases, legislation is passed which will affect them. It raises a point which the Government should consider; but whether it is possible to have some Commission to aid us in this matter, or whether there can be some Court of Appeal from the views of any individual Judge, in order to secure co-ordination, it is, at any rate, very important that whatever cases are pending should be permitted to proceed, and that provision should be made in regard to any decision which may become the subject of appeal.

All sorts of motives have been assigned to the Government because of its introduction of the amendment. Tam loath to ' believe that they have any sinister" motive. The whole community has given greater attention to the subject of hours of employment, by reason of recent happenings, than ever before. I refer to the strike associated with the building trade. These artisans, with their healthy outdoor conditions of labour, struck for a forty-hour week. Their action was so resented by the community as a whole that the strike failed. However, it concentrated the attention of the community generally upon the vital question of hours. Honorable members opposite can scarcely complain, therefore, that at this stage the subject should receive the attention of Parliament. If some means can be devised for overcoming the very real difficulty concerning pending cases, I would suggest that the Government adopt such means; but, as to the general principle involved in the amendment, I have no hesitation in giving it my approval.

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