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Friday, 3 September 1920

Mr CUNNINGHAM (Gwydir) . - I move -

That the following new clause be added: -

The following section is inserted in the principal Act: - " Independent Industrial Inspectors shall be appointed whose duty it shall be to see that the terms of awards are completely and satisfactorily carried out."

My object in submitting this proposal is that awards of the Arbitration Court, having all the force of law, are not now properly carried out, because there are no inspectors appointed to see that their terms are observed by employers. This is not a new proposal, because under certain State Arbitration Acts provision is made for the appointment of industrial inspectors, whose duty it is to visit factories and other places in which persons are employed under arbitration awards and see that the terms of the awards are properly observed. It is in the interests of industrial peace that this should be done. If industrial inspectors are appointed, as I desire, their work will do away with a good deal of friction that exists to-day in various industries arising from the fact that the employees have to police the awards themselves. Representatives of labour organizations are thus brought into conflict with employers, and so far from an award of the Arbitration Court being of advantage to them, it is often a source of hardship, because they are penalized for desiring to have the award carried out.

Under existing conditions, there is a feeling of uncertainty because of the inability of employers and employees to- properly interpret the terms of an award. No employer can be expected to properly interpret the terms of an award unless he has an intimate knowledge of the whole case in connexion with which it was made, and knows what the Court aimed at in making it. Employeessuffer because no provision is made for competent inspectors, who will thoroughly understand the terms of an award and be in a position to give a correct interpretation of them.

In the pastoral industry I have known misunderstandings to arise between employers and employees because of a difference of opinion as to the proper interpretation of an award of the Arbitration Court. The pastoralist appeals to the Pastoralists Union and the employees appeal to the Australian Workers Union to know how an award should be interpreted. The organizations, may give different interpretations, because they will consider the award from different points of view. Independent inspectors are needed who, in such cases, may be appealed to for an impartial decision as to what was the intention of the Court in making the award.

To-day, in the pastoral industry, there is a feeling of dissatisfaction amounting almost to disgust at the way in which many of the employers have failed to observe the terms of awards of the Arbitration Court. Embodied in the award affecting the pastoral industry there" is a provision for good and sufficient accommodation for employees. In New South Wales that is taken to mean provision in accordance with the Shearers' Accommodation Act, passed by the State Parliament. The police administer the provisions of that Act, and, as I have mentioned on previous occasions, that is unsatisfactory to the employees for a number of reasons. It should not be the duty of the police to look after these things. They already have too much to do, and the employees in the pastoral industry suffer as a consequence of the false position in which the police are placed with the employers in the industry. To-day the policing of awards of the Federal Arbitration Court has to be carried out by the organized body of unions at a cost of thousands of pounds. It is in the interests of the community generally that this policing of awards should be carried out effectively, and as the awards represent the will of the people as expressed through the Arbitration Court, the community, as a whole, should bear the cost of seeing that they are properly interpreted and observed bv the employers in order that the employees may receive the full benefit which the Arbitration Court intended that they should receive. At present, because of the lack of independent inspectors to see that the terms of awards are properly observed, the employers reap a decided advantage which it was never intended they should be given. Where only five or six men are employed in some remote place, they can secure no redress from their employer as they are not strong enough to go to law with him if the employer put a wrong interpretation on the award. The employees in many of these cases are practically nomads - they may be here to-day and 200 miles away to-morrow, or as soon as employment ceases at the particular place where a dispute may occur. Where small bodies of men are employed at places distant from centres of population they suffer because no one is appointed to police awards of the Arbitration Court. I hope that the Minister in charge of the Bill will accept the proposal I submit, because I am confident that the appointment of independent inspectors would prevent friction and would bring about better understanding between employer and employee.

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