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Thursday, 2 September 1920

Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) . - The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has for its object the striking out of the important and vital part of the proposed new clause. The principle involved in the clause has been fully debated, and honorable memberson both sides have expressed their approval of it.

Mr Lazzarini - No, they have not.

Sir ROBERT BEST - The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) accorded his approval of the principle, provided that its adoption did not affect the present inquiry and cases pending, and other honorable members opposite spoke in a similar strain. In my opinion the issue is so vital that it should not be left to the decision of a single Judge. The President of the Court may have his particular view, as may each of the Deputy Judges. At present this is minimized by the fact that there are only the President and a Deputy, but, even so, cases have already shown conflicts of opinion, and an increased number of Deputies means greater room for conflict. Under the circumstances the Government properly feel that there ought to be some co-ordinating authority, some full Bench to guide the industrial Courts and to secure uniformity as far as possible. But the difficulty which I and others feel is that, at the present time, there is an inquiry pending, and certain cases partially heard, and it is not desirable that these cases should be interfered with. I suggest, therefore, that in order to meet the difficulty there should be some Court of appeal, the guidance of which, after a matter has been dealt with by the President or the Deputy, it may be competent for the parties, or even the Judge himself, to seek. Of course, I refer to appeal only as regards the question of hours.

Mr Ryan - That would be even more effective for your purpose than the amendment of the Government.

Sir ROBERT BEST - The effect of it would be-

Mr Ryan - To exclude the President altogether on appeal.

Sir ROBERT BEST - I shall presently quote the honorable member himself in support of the view I am presenting. My point is that a question so grave should receive the imprimatur of a full Bench, and not be decided by one Judge, especially when there are to be three or four Judges dealing with similar matters. A full Bench of Appeal would give the benefit of an authority that could not be disputed. In Victoria, there are Wages

Boards, and from the decision of those Boards an appeal may be made to the Industrial Court of Appeal by either side.

Mr McGrath - Did you ever know the employees to win a case at the Industrial Court of Appeal?


Mr McGrath - Very few.

Sir ROBERT BEST - The honorable member should not cast any reflection on that Court, because both the previous Judge and the present Judge are men of unblemished reputation and pronounced impartiality. The suggestion I have made would overcome the difficulty which I and others feel ; and in support of this I will resort to the authority of the honorable member for West Sydney for light and leading. In 1916,. when the honorable member was Premier of Queensland, there was passed by bis Government in the Queensland Parliament an Act dealing with conciliation and arbitration; and in section 19 of that Act there is provided exactly the machinery I suggest now for the purposes of the Bill before us. That section reads as follows: -

Any Judge of the Court may, if he thinks fit, and shall on the application of any party bound by any decision, award, or order, or interested in any proceeding before him, at any stage and upon such terms as he thinks proper, state a case in writing for the opinion of the full Bench, consisting of all the Judges of the Court, including himself, upon any question of law or of fact arising in such proceeding.

Such full Bench shall hear and determine the question, and remit the case with its decision thereon to such Judge, and may make such order as to costs as it thinks fit. Such Judge shall give effect to such decision. A decision of the full Bench given under the foregoing provision shall only be rescinded, varied, or re-opened by the full Bench upon an application in that behalf.

I suggest that the new clause be accepted as proposed, and that the Minister in charge (Mr. Groom) be permitted to add a clause similar to that I have quoted from the Queensland Act.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why have three Judges if you are to have a Court of Appeal ?

Sir ROBERT BEST - The suggestion I have made, if adopted, will prevent any interference with cases now being heard, and it will be competent for either party, if dissatisfied, to take the question of hours to the full Bench.

Mr Maxwell - According to the honorable member, the full Bench hears a case which is to be referred to the full Bench.

Sir ROBERT BEST - That is a misconception.

Mr Maxwell - Are you going to allow the amendment as proposed by the Minister to stand?


Mr Maxwell - Then the case is heard by three Judges.

Sir ROBERT BEST - I did not for the moment realize the honorable gentleman's objection. It will be necessary to have some verbal amendments made in the clause.

Mr Riley - Will the honorable member explain the machinery ?

Sir ROBERT BEST - It is that, in any plaint before a single Judge, it is competent for any of the parties to the plaint to request that the matter - such as in relation to the decrease or increase of hours - be referred to the full Bench.

Mr Maxwell - The honorable member forgets that the amendment of the Government stands. The plaint will be heard by the three Judges, so that the appeal will be to themselves. The Prime Minister might say whether he can accept the Queensland legislation.

Mr Hughes - It will be interesting to hear the honorable member for West Sydneyon this matter.

Sir ROBERT BEST - If there is anything in the amendment which is inconsistent with my view it can be altered accordingly. But the point is that, in any plaint before any single Arbitration Judge, it should be competent for any party to the plaint, or for the Judge himself, to request that the matter be referred to the Full Bench.

Mr Maxwell - But that is substituting the Queensland provision for this.

Sir ROBERT BEST - That is so. But then we go to the full Bench and secure a decision. I suggest this as a means of getting over our difficulty.

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