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Thursday, 2 September 1920

Mr RILEY (South Sydney) .- The Prime Minister stated that, because the Commonwealth had lost 60,000 of its best producers, its ability to produce is reduced. I remind the Committee that Great Britain's losses in men were ten to one of Australia's losses ; yet that country is reducing the hours of labour. Is the Mother Country declining on that account? On the contrary, it is commencing to build up its manhood. In every industry in the Old Country the tendency hasbeen, and is to reduce the hours of labour. The Prime Minister's argument, in regard to the loss of producers during the war, applies to every country engaged in the war; yet all are reducing the hours of labour.

Mr Hughes - They had plenty of scope for reduction. How many hours did they work before the war ?

Mr RILEY - In Great Britain the building and iron trades worked eight hours per day. They now work forty-four hours per week.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - While the war was on they worked two twelve-hour shifts in some industries.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - And suffered a reduction in output.


Mr RILEY - The Prime Minister argued that it is necessary that the question of hours should be determined by three Judges instead of one. At the commencement of the war the Allied Armies were under divided control. At a late stage in the war the command was unified, and under that system victory was achieved.

Mr Hughes - A few days ago the honorable member moved an amendment to make the Arbitration Court consist of three persons.

Mr RILEY - Yes; and honorable members opposite show their inconsistency by opposing that amendment and now supporting the proposal of the Government to refer all questions of hours to three Judges instead of one. My proposal was that two practical laymen, representative of the employers and employees respectively should sit with the Judge in the Arbitration Court. Honorable members opposite opposed that; but pressure has been brought to bear upon them, and now they propose to create a Court of three persons, who shall not be laymen.

Mr Hughes - I have had the honour of appearing before the honorable member when he was an assessor in the Arbitration Court.

Mr RILEY - Yes.

Mr Hughes - I conducted myself in a most respectful way?

Mr RILEY - Yes.

Mr Hughes - And the honorable member gave me the decision I wanted.

Mr RILEY - At that time the Prime Minister was on the side of the worker. To-day, I think, he is on the side of the " fat man." I have received information this week that the whole of the iron trades in New South Wales have decided to work only forty-four hours.

Mr Hughes - Then, what is the honorable member kicking at? They do not bother about the . Court.

Mr RILEY - I am indicating the tendency throughout Australia, All the building trades in Victoria have been working forty-four hours for the last twelve years. The building trades in New South Wales also are seeking a forty-four hour week, whilst the Australian Workers Union is working a forty-four hour week in the shearing industry throughoutthe Commonwealth. The Government are trying to keep back the tide with a broom. The forty-four hour week must come.

Mr Hughes - How many bricks are laid daily now?

Mr Richard Foster - About half as many as formerly.

Mr RILEY - The honorable member for Wakefield is a champion slanderer of his own country. I would be ashamed to be a representative of the people if I held them in contempt as he does.

Mr Richard Foster - I can prove every word I say.

Mr RILEY - The honorable member should go to his constituency to prove his statement.

Mr Hughes - I think the Australian worker is the best in the world. I would far rather deal with him than with the other crowd.

Mr RILEY - I have worked with men on the other side of the world and with Australians, and I say that the latter are not inferior to the workers in any country.

Mr Hughes - What the honorable member for Wakefield means is that a lot of men are advocating the ' ' go-slow " policy, and a lot of fools are listening to them.

Mr RILEY - The Committee must realize that with the improvements in machinery and the advance of scientific discovery the world's wants can be produced with lesser hours of labour. We should place no obstacle in the way of a reduction of hours. The men best qualified to say what hours should be worked in an industry are those who have had opportunities of considering every aspect of the industry and hearing evidence from both sides. While the President of the Arbitration Court is engaged in hearing a claim in regard to the reduction of hours, Parliament is asked to declare that no single Judge shall give a decision in this matter. Is not that a direct blow at the Arbitration Court and its President? The men interested in that claim will be justified in assuming that the Government are apposed to them, for the Minister in charge of the Bill has not said that this amendment will not apply to any case that is part heard. Obviously, therefore, the aim of the amendment is to strike a blow at the President of the Court and to prevent him giving a decision in the case which is now proceeding. The country is looking to Parliament for guidance in regard to the hours of labour. Australia will be able to hold its own in output against any country, even if the working week is reduced to forty-four hours. The Prime Minister referred to a forty-hour week. I have heard the right honorable gentleman advocating extreme claims in the Arbitration Court, but he was not so foolish as to refuse to take what he could get. Men usually ask for more than they expect to get, and though they may claim forty hours they may be glad to take forty-four. It does not follow that a Judge, if he were allowed to adjudicate in this matter, would act like a fool and concede any reduction of hours that was claimed. He would give a judicial decision. From the remarks of some honorable members it might be inferred that the President of the Arbitration Court is waiting for an opportunity to ruin the country. Has any award given by the Arbitration Court done injury to any industry? If so, that might be an argument for appointing three Judges, but not one case has been cited in which any award given by the Judge on a question of wages has injured any industry. A party has come into this House to advocate economy, and I ask whether any of its members have considered the cost of appointing an additional two Judges. Every industrial dispute involves a question of hours or wages, so that the three Judges proposed will be all their time engaged, with the result of greater congestion than ever. If this proposal be passed, the case now before the Judge will have to be heard all over again for the information of the Deputy Judges, and if the men are not satisfied they will go to a Tribunal where the decision will be given by a chairman. The Prime Minister has tried to settle a dispute which has lasted at Broken Hill for eighteen months.

Mr Hughes - I have not tried to settle it.

Mr RILEY - The Prime Minister has taken part in trying to settle it.

Mr Hughes - Yes, by request.

Mr RILEY - At any rate, the question involved there is that of the hours of labour, and the Prime Minister agreed, with Mr. Storey, the Premier of New South Wales, to appoint Judge Edmunds to settle a matter involving the life or death of mining at the Barrier. Why has the right honorable gentleman changed his opinion?

Mr Hughes - If the honorable member and myself had been together he would have followed me and voted for this. All I have said here I have said elsewhere.

Mr RILEY - Then I have not heard the right honorable gentleman. In any case, the Judge ofthe Arbitration Court should not be shackled, and if he is, the employees will withdraw from the Court and adopt a more speedy method of obtaining justice.

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